As of July 28, the Leaf Rapids Health Centre is closed temporarily until Aug. 10 due to current high-water issues in the area, along with a lack of staff.
The announcement of the closure was made by the Northern Regional health Authority (NRHA) July 24 on social media.
Flin Flon NDP MLA Tom Lindsey said the closure leaves the Leaf Rapids community with no healthcare for almost two weeks.
“They have one ambulance in the community. So, if that ambulance has to take someone in an emergency situation to Lynn Lake or Thompson, that community is left with absolutely nothing,” he told the Winnipeg Sun.
“If someone is having chest pains, for example, the best they can hope for is that the ambulance happens to be there. And on a good day, it is a minimum three-hour drive, but with an ambulance, it is probably going to be closer to four before they can actually get medical care.”
Lindsey reached out to the NRHA when the announcement was made, expressing his concerns.
“Someone from the [NRHA] said that they had emergency plans in place and not to worry about it. Their concern was with the rising floodwaters, potentially from the Churchill River. They were concerned that the water treatment plant will go down,” said Lindsey.
“I have spoken to people in charge of the community and municipal relations. They are very confident, they have got sandbags and pumps in place, that there is minimal danger to the water plant. For the health region to suggest that is why they shut the facility down is unacceptable.”
As the local MLA, Lindsey is frustrated that the NRHA was not able to provide answers to some of his questions concerning the closure.
“Are they short on doctors or nurses? I don’t know the answer to that as they just said they were short on medical personnel. The health centre relies heavily on fly-in and fly-out doctors and nurses all the time,” he said.
“So what has changed that they can’t get medical people to fly in? They weren’t able to answer that question either. Imagine how frustrated the people in the community will be, because they might feel as if they are being abandoned by the [NRHA].”
All scheduled prenatal, postnatal and immunization in-home visits will continue to happen during the closure, as will other scheduled public health activities. Residents can still call the centre, but those calls will be forwarded to Lynn Lake where staff are there to assist them with their health care needs.
For all health emergencies, Leaf Rapids residents are encouraged to call 9-1-1 for emergency care. An ambulance is staged in the community as part of a robust contingency plan.
“No one wants to close a health centre; even for a few days. We understand the apprehension. Our goal is to implement our plan to meet the health needs of citizens served by the Leaf Rapids Health Centre during this period of closure,” said NRHA communications consultant Glenn Hildebrand.
“Working together, we will all get through this period of closure just fine. Contingency plans have been put in place and are being implemented. Reach out to us if you need care.”
A Town of Leaf Rapids spokesperson noted that they will continue to work with the NRHA to ensure access to quality care for their community members.
Nicole Wong covers northern and Indigenous issues for the Winnipeg Sun under the Local Journalism Initiative, a federally funded program that supports the creation of original civic journalism.