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Health Care Check Up - Public Meeting in Flin Flon

February 27, I was in The Flin Flon with Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont as part of our public consultations on the status of Health Care in Manitoba.  There is a major concern over Health Care in Manitoba at the moment, in part because the Pallister PCs have been making major changes and these are causing concern, uncertainty and low morale within the health care system.

In each of our public meetings as part of our effort to see where health care is at, we asked three questions.  1) What is working well?   This question is important because the starting place for improving our health care system is understanding what is working well.   Items that fall in this category need to be supported and indeed built upon and used as models of good care to improve the system. 2) What is not working?   This is an important question because it identifies where there are problems which need to be understood and addressed to improve the system. 3) Where do we need to invest? This is a critical question because it identifies areas which will need additional funding in order to correct the deficiency. 

We had an excellent turn out for our meeting in Flin Flon.  People were very engaged and were able to identify items in each of the three categories.  A brief mention of some of these items is below:  It is not exhaustive.  A more complete report will come when we have finished our public meetings;

What is working well?
- Telehealth is working well, though it needs to be used more and specialists in Winnipeg need to be more available when needed.
- A nurse practitioner program with four nurse practitioners was excellent when it was operating.  It has now ended.
- Many of the nurses are excellent
- A new Emergency Room is nearing completion. 
-       
What is not working?
- Physician recruitment is managed poorly which results in high turnover and much use of expensive temporary locums
- Maternal and child health care is a problem with many women having to go to The Pas to deliver and women having to wait several months after their child is born in order to get an appointment to see a doctor.   On one recent occasion, a woman in labour was sent to The Pas, but had to turn around as the delivery was imminent.  When she arrived back at the hospital she said the Emergency Room doctor would not come to deliver her baby in the ambulance on the hospital premises. 
- There are only two doctors currently at the NRHA clinic and long wait times (one person who arrived in October has been waiting four months and still not been able to see a doctor).  The shortage of physicians means delays in just about every aspect of care including getting medications, getting referrals to specialists etc.  It also puts people at risk when no surgeon or obstetrician is available. 
- Manitoba physicians do not have access to ehealth from Saskatchewan in spite of dealing with many patients from Creighton
- The Emergency Room is staffed primarily by locums, many of whom are physicians early in their career.  They are often without adequate backup (or quick telehealth access to specialists) which results in more patients being sent to Winnipeg than might be necessary.
- The shortage of physicians means that a physician may be on call 24/7 for a month for a particular service such as anesthesia or surgery. 

Where do we need to invest and improve our health care system? 
- .Physician recruitment and retention needs to be a top priority, and it needs to be managed and supported more effectively than it is at the moment. 
- There is a major need to dramatically improve the capability and the use of telehealth to ensure all physicians are using telehealth well and to ensure changes are made in Winnipeg to increase access to specialists when needed.   A lot of 16 hour drives to see a specialist in Winnipeg for ten minutes could be eliminated to the benefit of the people in Flin Flon. 
- Home care for adults with disabilities needs to be improved.
- Much better mechanisms to ensure there is accountability and transparency to people in Flin Flon are badly needed. 

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