By Carlos Sosa
In April of 2017, it was announced that there would be dramatic changes in the way that healthcare would be delivered in Manitoba. One of the biggest users of the healthcare system are marginalized populations who live in poverty especially persons with disabilities and seniors. The changes that were announced include the closures of Seven Oaks, Concordia, Victoria Hospital emergency rooms and Misericordia urgent care centre in Winnipeg. With plans for the Seven Oaks and Victoria Hospital emergency rooms to be converted into urgent care centres. As a person with a disability and Elmwood resident, I immediately had concerns regarding how this short-sighted decision will have a detrimental impact on marginalized communities in North East Winnipeg. In my area people living in poverty which includes persons with disabilities face many barriers when it comes to accessing healthcare. The changes announced further complicate the barriers to the medical system that people living in poverty and with disabilities encounter on a daily basis.
As a resident of Northeast Winnipeg, the closure of the Concordia Hospital emergency room will have a detrimental effect on my community even more so for seniors and persons with disabilities. A disproportionate number of persons with disabilities and seniors live in poverty who struggle to afford things such as food, rent and transportation which are critical for daily survival. The closet options for my community will be to access the urgent care centre at Seven Oaks Hospital and the emergency rooms at the Health Sciences Centre, St. Boniface hospital or the Grace Hospital which would take anywhere from 45 minutes to one hour from Northeast Winnipeg. As the boundaries of my community include the Canadian National main rail line at the south and the Red River to the West getting to these options can be extremely difficult especially in rush hour which can delay a person’s commute time.
Handi-Transit users suffer even more especially due to the regulations which stipulate that transportation must be arranged 24 hours before their scheduled appointment. In the evenings, especially late at night when the Handi-transit call centre (call center closes at 10:00 pm) is closed it would be very difficult arrange accessible transportation in the middle of the night especially during an Emergency. Persons living in poverty struggle to find the financial resources to afford the bus especially when someone needs medical attention and is forced to go to either a hospital emergency room or an urgent care centre outside of our area.
It is quite clear that the most vulnerable populations in our society will be detrimentally impacted by the changes announced to the delivery of healthcare within Manitoba and Winnipeg.
Carlos Sosa is a disability rights activist in Winnipeg