CBC Manitoba recently reported on the closure, in October, of the emergency room in rural Vita, Manitoba. Closure was forced by an insufficient number of physicians to staff the local emergency facility. Residents will now have to drive approximately 50 Kms to Steinbach to access an emergency department and this has left many of the town’s population upset.
The harsh reality is that in a rural nation such as ours every small community cannot ever expect to be be able to have a full service emergency department in their own community. It requires not only an adequate supply of physicians and nurses but also sufficient volumes of patients to maintain adequate clinical skills. Neither of which is available in small towns and villages.
In Ontario, as elsewhere in Canada, it has long been accepted that access to an emergency department within one half hour (on dry roads driving at 80 km/hr) and in the “rural-close” communities was a very reasonable goal.
Seems to me that driving to Steinbach for consistently available care is far better than relying on a couple of country doctors to be continuously available for a pseudo-emergency service. It’s not fair to them and it’s not fair to the community.
That having been said, closing a rural emergency department does not mean denying rural Canadians access to emergency care. It means better regional co-ordination with enhanced communications and a responsive pre-hospital care system.