Province spending $20 million on health-care facility renos

The Manitoba government plans to spend nearly $20 million on renovations over the next couple of years to facilitate overhauling the way health care is delivered in Winnipeg.

The government and the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority attached the price tag to the reorganization during a press conference Monday afternoon.

“We’ve always said the system isn’t working,” said health minister Kelvin Goertzen. “We signalled in April that there would need to be capital changes with the reorganization to ensure (it) happened the way it needs to happen.”

The $19.9 million will be spread over 27 months and includes minor and major renovations to the St. Boniface emergency department, a consolidation of mental-health services at Victoria General Hospital, multiple unit renovations at Health Sciences Centre, and an expansion of Victoria Hospital’s day-surgery program, among other projects.

The WRHA declined to provide a breakdown of costs per project, citing a need to remain competitive when putting out tenders, however some of the budgets are already known. Expansion of the minor treatment area at HSC’s emergency department comes with a $765,000 price tag, while the potential budget for a remodelling of the emergency department at St. Boniface Hospital hovers around $3 million.

In some spots, the renovations will only yield slightly more bed space: 10 beds at HSC’s clinical assessment unit instead of six; 14 beds in its surgical recovery area instead of 12; and eight beds instead of six in its intermediate intensive care unit.

However, the WRHA’s vice-president and chief nursing officer Lori Lamont said it’s not just about adding beds, but rather about redirecting patient flow.

Right now, clinical experts in the same field are spread across seven hospitals, she said.

“Simply by having additional — even a small number of — additional beds where those services are concentrated gives us the ability to reduce length of stay and use those beds more effectively,” Lamont said.

In the emergency room, streamlining patients with minor injuries to one area has already helped cut their length of stay from an average of six hours down to five, and in some cases, even more, she said.

As of Monday, the WRHA was still unable to speak specifically about what this impact will have on hospital staff.

The NDP argued Monday’s announcement is an indication the WRHA is not ready to deal with the actuality of closing the Victoria General Hospital ER and the Misericordia Urgent Care Centre in October.

“Every detail that’s revealed highlights how unprepared the WRHA actually was,” said NDP health critic Matt Wiebe, MLA for Concordia.

“It was announced before any of these details had been planned out and now the WRHA, from what I’m seeing, is scrambling to update its facilities just to keep up, rather than investing in our health-care system in a way that’s for the long-term and more sustainable.”

jane.gerster@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @Jane_Gerster

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