The Carillon - ONLINE EDITION
By: Jordan Ross
Posted: 04/1/2018 9:00 AM
RM of Stuartburn reeve Jim Swidersky says he’s "very disappointed" to learn of new cuts to X-ray and handi-van services at the Vita and District Health Centre, but Southern Health and Diagnostic Services Manitoba maintain area residents will continue to see adequate service under the new arrangements.
In a meeting earlier this month, Southern Health informed Stuartburn council that the centre’s retiring full-time X-ray technologist will be replaced with a two-day-a-week cross-trained technologist beginning Apr. 1. Operating hours and staff at Vita’s laboratory are unaffected by the change.
"They said it’s because our numbers are low in Vita, not enough people using the X-ray," Swidersky said.
A DSM spokesperson confirmed an average of 60 X-rays are performed in Vita each month, a volume she said can be accommodated on Mondays and Thursdays from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
St Pierre’s De Salaberry District Health Centre performs an average of 235 X-rays monthly, the spokesperson said.
But Swidersky worried the reduction will erode patient confidence, and thus beget further statistical decreases in a self-perpetuating cycle he fears doesn’t bode well for Vita’s health centre, which lost its emergency room in 2012 but maintains a primary care clinic open six days a week.
"What physician wouldn’t want to have X-ray as a diagnostic tool when they’re in the clinic working with patients?" he wondered.
"We’ve worked very hard in this community to secure the team of doctors we have here."
The new arrangement means more waiting, or more time and money spent driving elsewhere, Swidersky said.
DSM’s spokesperson directed Vita X-ray patients to health centres in Steinbach or St Pierre, which Swidersky noted could entail a costly ambulance ride in urgent situations.
Marie Lacey, executive director of Southern Health’s eastern region, said the RHA remains committed to Vita’s facility.
"Beds are full…and we have our very vibrant clinic and quite a nice health centre that’s flourishing," she said.
Meanwhile, a second retirement, of the health centre’s lone handi-van driver, has put the local senior transportation service in question.
Lacey said the RHA chose not to repost the paid position.
"When the retirement came up, we looked at it like a good opportunity to engage with some other partners in the community," she said.
Until recently, the RHA had covered all costs associated with the service, but is now only willing to continue housing the vehicle.
According to Lacey, the handi-van, which documents show was purchased for $85,000 in 2013 by the RM of Stuartburn and Vita and District Health Centre Foundation at the request of Southern Health, was booked over 100 times last year, including 13 times for weekly outings by long-term care residents.
"We’re looking at all our services, and running a community handi-van we felt could be shared with some of the other groups that are around," Lacey said.
Complaints of high fares were received, and a switch to volunteer drivers—a model used by Steinbach, Grunthal, and St Pierre handi-van services—may make Vita’s more affordable, she said.
"We’re very, very optimistic that the handi-van will be up and running very quickly," she said.
The reeve said the municipality lacks the wherewithal to take on the cost of the transportation service, but will gladly forward an associated provincial grant to any organization that steps up.
"We’re willing to roll it over to somebody else," Swidersky said.
No public notices on the changes were visible around Vita’s laboratory and clinic waiting areas last Friday.
DSM’s spokesperson said a poster was provided Tuesday morning, while Lacey said Southern Health left public communication to the municipality following the meeting.
Swidersky called the lack of direct public messaging troubling, and said Stuartburn council will continue to "defend health care in our community."
With more than 20 Amish families moving into the municipality later this spring, and a large senior population, Swidersky said he simply wants to see Vita’s health centre offer reliable, consistent services.
"That’s all we’re looking for," he said.
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