'Highway medicine' the new standard in rural Manitoba, residents complain
Published Friday, March 11, 2016 6:21PM EST
Several hundred residents of Eriksdale, Manitoba rallied Friday, to protest what they have termed 'highway medicine' -- a situation where residents needing emergency health care often face hours-long drives to get to a hospital that will actually admit them.
The situation has reached the boiling point in the rural community located approximately 140 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg.
The Interlake-Eastern Regional Health Authority is open, but is referring patients to surrounding facilities for emergency care when a doctor is not available. That can mean a drive of an hour or longer.
Keith Lundale, a councillor with the R.M. of West Interlake and member of the West Interlake Health Advocacy Committee called it a "crisis situation."
"We've had cases where a critically-ill patient picked up at their home wanted to go to Eriksdale which is only 12 miles away, and been told by EMS we can't go to Eriksdale because it's closed, Ashern is on diversion, and so we're going to Stonewall, only to be en route to Stonewall and diverted to another facility further north," Lundale told CTV News Channel on Friday.
Earlier Friday, speaking to protesters gathered in Eriksdale, Lundale said "our health services are in crisis... Our citizen’s lives are unnecessarily put at risk."
The IERHA said there's an ongoing physician shortage in the region and Lundale said they need between 25 and 45 physicians.
Two physicians are currently working in the community; however, one of those doctors has resigned, meaning the town will soon be down to just one doctor.
When there's no doctor available, nurses in Eriksdale triage patients when they arrive to the ER. If physician care is needed, nurses can consult by phone with an on-call doctor from Selkirk, located about 153 kilometres southeast of the town.
If the patient needs to see a doctor in person, they are directed or transferred to a hospital with an available doctor. That could mean a trip to Ashern, Stonewall or Selkirk to see a physician -- a one-way journey of between 30 minutes and two hours.
"In Manitoba we had a slogan a few years back that we had hallway medicine. We just feel that hallway medicine has just stepped up to highway medicine," Lundale told CTV News Channel.
"The thing is you don't know when you're going to need your healthcare especially in the emergency service area and all the citizens of Manitoba deserve to have equal emergency service in a timely manner."