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Roblin rallies for the future of health care

  • In News
  • September 8, 2020
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By Ed Doering
For the Herald
Manitoba Opposition leader Wab Kinew was in Roblin, Sept. 1, to lend his support to the ongoing campaign to save health care in the community.
Kinew spoke to a COVID-19 compliant crowd gathered in their vehicles at the Roblin Community Centre,
Speaking from the back of a pick-up through a sound system courtesy of Mel Nemetchek, Kinew expressed not only his concerns about the service reductions at the Lab and X-ray department of the Roblin District Health Centre and the closure of the ER as a result, but his fears for the future of the hospital.
His address was peppered with enthusiastic honking from an appreciative, supportive and concerned audience.
“There are three things that I know for sure . . . the first thing I know for sure is that people in Roblin and the surrounding area deserve strong, good quality health care close to home. And by close to home I don’t mean an hour away, 30 minutes away, 15 minutes away, I mean right here, in town, in the emergency department in the health centre that you’re used to,” he began.
“The second thing that I wanted to say for sure is that we are going to help you fight to keep your emergency department, to keep emergency medical personnel here in town.
“And the third one, well, maybe, I don’t know for sure – you can tell me if I’m wrong – I don’t think anyone here voted for this in the last election. I don’t think anyone in Roblin cast their ballot expecting they were voting to close their emergency department.”
Kinew went on to say he was very proud and very impressed at “this tremendous outpouring of support for health care that you’ve already shown.”
“We’ve seen it in the media, we’ve seen it on Facebook and today, with this turn out, with your presence here at this gathering, socially distanced I would add, you are showing, with a very strong voice, that this matters to you. And you care about having emergency medicine to serve Roblin and the surrounding area.”
Kinew said while the community’s efforts to date have been admirable, “you have to keep this momentum going.”
“(Because) you have a small window of opportunity where you can get the government to change their mind,” he said.
He added if the government doesn’t change its mind, it’s going to be very difficult to get the decisions reversed “six months from now, a year from now, two years from now.”
“The key time, the real moment of truth if you will, is now,” he said.
“It’s so very, very important to keep the momentum going, to keep raising your
voices.”
Kinew raised the importance of more investment, not only in health care, but in education, to ensure the future of health care in all rural communities in Manitoba and went on to note the “back and forth” taking place about finding skilled lab and x-ray technicians. But he thinks that conversation needs to broaden.
“We need to be talking about not only what can be done to keep the Roblin emergency department open, but about what sort of investments (the province is) going to make to ensure that those two young people from Roblin who are in medical school right now have a hospital to come back to work in in the future,” he said.
Investments in education are needed, he added, so that young people in the community can get the credentials they need to return to their communities to work in the health care field.
Kinew questioned the timing of these decisions, suggesting the government did have something to gain with the timing – six days notice for the ER closure. At harvest time.
“I’m not saying they made the decision because of that, but I don’t think that it hurt their decision-making process either,” he said, suggesting the province anticipated there may not have been as many dissenting voices raised.
“But I think today, you have proved them wrong,” he said, with the rest of his words drowned out by the honking.
Kinew stressed the need to keep the pressure on the province.
“I think if this emergency room is to close here in Roblin, then what you’re likely to see six months, a year from now, two years from now, is they’re going to renovate and reconfigure that facility into a personal care home or some facility like that.
“Once new money goes into reconfiguring a facility and changing the layout so that it’s a personal care home, it’s going to be very, very difficult to change it back,” he explained.
“And so now is the time. Now is the crucial window of opportunity. You’ve got a few days, you’ve got a few days, you’ve got maybe a few months to let the government know that you don’t agree with the change. And it has to made now.”
He also questioned the reasoning behind closing the ER during a pandemic when more such facilities are needed.
Kinew reminded the gathering of the province’s new health care plan, first announced last November.
Phase 1 was closing ERs in Winnipeg and Phase 2 was bringing that plan outside of the perimeter and making those same kinds of cuts and closures across rural Manitoba.
While the pandemic put that plan “on ice”, Kinew says what’s been going on in the past few days has convinced him the government is moving ahead with Phase 2.
“What that means is that these decisions that are going to affect your loved ones, your family members, potentially people in surrounding communities as well, are not being made by what makes sense for you here, they’re being dictated by a plan that was written by high priced consultants, some of whom don’t even live in Manitoba,” he said.
“I say that’s not right. Health care should be close to home,” he continued, “and local people should have input into any decision that is made. It shouldn’t be a one week notice and you’ve lost your emergency department.”
Kinew pointed out that all the local efforts made in trying to find a solution, including finding certified lab techs willing to move to Roblin to work, have been so far rebuffed and rejected.
He says these efforts are something “no common sense person would say no to.”
“Unless this really is part of the government’s plan and they’re really trying to sneak these changes in through the back door,” he said.
Kinew said the real concern he has is that the government is not being straight forward, not being truthful, not being honest with the people of Roblin.
“You are being told that they have to close your emergency department because they don’t have the lab techs to keep it open,” he noted.
“But what it looks like is actually happening is that the government is turning down every opportunity that they could have to bring new lab techs into the community just so they can justify their predetermined, political plan to take the emergency department away from this community.”
Kinew said the community has a very strong case to make that the province ought to not only explain what’s going on, but until they can persuade the community that it makes sense to move ahead with his closure, that they should commit to keeping the emergency department in Roblin open.
Kinew said the Opposition is more than prepared to help get that message out, to work with local leadership and community members, to equip the community with the necessary information to push back against some of the arguments “that you hear being made against your community in the media,” and to ensure “your voice” is heard by the premier and his cabinet in the legisature.
“And certainly we will continue to support you, because like I said at the beginning, I know this community deserves strong, quality health close to home,” he said.
“But if I were the premier of Manitoba today, I would not close the emergency department. I would keep the emergency department here in Roblin open.”

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