When more than a third of Manitoba emergency rooms remained closed over the August long weekend, Dr. Jacobi Elliott’s clinic in Grandview remained open.
For the past month, shortly after community ERs closed on evenings and weekends this summer due to a shortage of nurses, Elliot has been running the private clinic seven days a week, with the help of 45 volunteers on weekends.
“We decided we had to do something,” Elliott said Wednesday.
With the administrative help of community residents – answering the phones, checking in and cleaning the rooms – and one doctor at a time, the clinic is open every day.
The local emergency operated with a physician on call, drawing from the same small group of physicians and locum physicians in the area. For months it had operated only sporadically, before the Prairie Mountain Health Region announced another suspension of service in late June.
Grandview is about 45 kilometers west of Dauphin, and residents can go to the nearest emergency room in Dauphin or Roblin. However, Elliott said the nurses, lab technicians, pharmacists and doctors at Grandview try to provide the kind of stable care that people can only get at home.
“Patients know us, they trust us,” she says. “We really know what’s going on with our patients. And when they’re really sick, when they’re having a pain crisis or they’re having a mental health crisis or there’s a death in the family, those are the times when I really want to be able to help them, and those things often happen after hours.
“If there is a clinic, then at least you are there for people in crisis.”
The private facility, which Elliott owns with city grants, is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, in addition to its usual Monday-Friday hours since early July.
However, he will not be able to continue to function every day without additional doctors; Elliott’s practice has already lost two doctors. They couldn’t get there without volunteers and locum doctors being willing to give up their summer weekends, she said – and isn’t sure how long that will be.
“We have to be innovative right now. We are in a dire situation, I think, and so we have to think outside the box a bit,” Elliott said. “There are so many things I can’t change, so if there’s something in my power to do, why not try?”
ERs are typically busier on summer long weekends, but more than 30% of rural ERs are currently closed; 22 of 67 are closed and another 22 are operating reduced hours, Doctors Manitoba said last week.
Manitoba’s largest emergency room was also busier than normal over the August long weekend, with wait times slightly above the five-year average at the Center’s adult and pediatric emergency departments. of Health Sciences in Winnipeg.
In adult emergency rooms, the median wait time was about two hours between July 29 and August 1, according to figures provided by Shared Health. (The median measures the midpoint, which means half the patients waited longer and half the patients waited shorter.) Over the past five years, the average median wait in adult emergency departments in HSC was 1.93 hours and 1.18 hours in Children’s ER.
Over the past weekend, 621 adults were triaged at the HSC, and a high rate of them were seriously ill. Nearly 19% (115 people) required hospitalization.
In a statement Wednesday, Shared Health thanked staff who worked over the weekend.
“Long weekends have historically been a busy time as Manitobans use our province’s highways and waterways for recreation and other activities, which can lead to an increase in injuries, trauma and of diseases.
However, in rural parts of the province, smaller emergency departments often serve a different purpose. They are the only place people can get medical care outside of the usual 9-to-5 business hours, Elliott said.
“If you’re not going to have an emergency, you’re not going to have primary care. The two things cannot be separated.
There are solutions to this crisis, Elliott said. She suggested that policymakers should systematically allow nurses to self-program, like doctors do, reduce bureaucratic health care management and really listen to frontline staff.
Running private clinics day-to-day is not a long-term answer, Elliott said.
“I can do it for a short time, but I can’t do it forever. You definitely need more body if you want this kind of thing to work.