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Editorial: Next year’s change in NRHA leadership could help pinpoint where deficiencies originate

Like most other Manitobans and Canadians in general, northerners in this province have plenty to criticize about the health care system.
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The NRHA will have its second-ever CEO next spring when Helga Bryant retires.

It’s nearly a year away from happening, but Northern Manitobans learned in June that, come the spring of 2023, the Northern Regional Health Authority will have someone other than Helga Bryant at the helm for the first time since it was created 10 years ago by the provincially forced merger of the NOR-MAN and Burntwood regional health authorities.

Like most other Manitobans and Canadians in general, northerners in this province have plenty to criticize about the health care system. A trip to the emergency room can take hours. Getting an appointment to see a doctor often means a month-long wait. If you need to be seen quicker than that, but know that your condition isn’t serious enough to make you much of a priority in the ER, you can always try the walk-in clinic on weekdays, when  there is one, although you may have to make your way down there first thing in the morning, wait in line, and then come back again in the afternoon to actually wait your turn. And that’s if you’re lucky, If you’re not and you get there too late, the available slots could already be filled up and you’ll have to wait until the next day, or the day after that, or maybe you will have to go to emergency after all.

And that’s the case for those who are fortunate enough to live in Thompson or another major centre, where health care services are actually, difficult as it may be to believe, better than in many of the smaller outlying communities, where facilities are sometimes closed for days or weeks on end due to a shortage of workers and vacant staff positions. Thompson General Hospital recently had to rely on Thompson Fire & Emergency Services paramedics to help out in the ER for some weekend shifts. Before that, it didn’t have guaranteed hot water for a few months. Just prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, only emergency surgeries could be done for months and months  because failing equipment resulted in flooding in the operating rooms that took a long time to repair. A litany of problems could go on and on and on, but you probably get the picture by now, if your own experiences with the system haven’t already exposed its many shortcomings.

Not to mention the fact that, for many procedures, even something as straightforward as an allergy test, northerners need to go to Winnipeg, incurring expenses in the process, some of which are refunded. You still need to take a couple fo days off work for the trip, unless you choose to upgrade to air travel, in which case it’s going to cost you a fair amount out of pocket.

As was noted before, complaints about the health care Northern Manitoba residents receive could go on for several more pages, but the point we’re trying to make is this. Whoever becomes the next CEO of the NRHA has their work cut out for them. Some of the issues affecting the health authority and the services it provides, and therefore the residents of the region, likely can’t be changed much, if at all, unless direction to do so and funding to accomplish these changes comes from the provincial government. Others may stem from the way things are run up here, perhaps, in which case, a change of leadership could result in a change of outcomes. It’s too early to say at this point whether getting a new CEO will end up being a positive, a negative or a non-factor when it comes to health care operations in Northern Manitoba. It’s also worth remembering that, whatever you think of the job Bryant has done in her 10 years at the helm, it certainly wasn’t smooth sailing in Thompson and the surrounding area when health care services were provided by the Burntwood Regional Health Authority prior to the province reducing the number of health regions and Bryant taking charge in the north, either.