‘This is pretty dirty pool’: Roblin losing diagnostic services, residents worry ER will close

By | August 27, 2020

Some people in Roblin are worried about the future of their community’s emergency room after getting news their health centre’s lab technicians will be relocated.

Roblin town councillors were told this past week that all the lab technicians will be sent 50 kilometres south to Russell because there is a shortage of staff there.

Manitoba Shared Health said in an email to the CBC that the move is a temporary measure while they work to recruit more staff.

“I just feel like we’ve been taken off the map. It’s not as though I want Russell not to have a lab. My intent is to save ours,” said Jana Knight, a business owner in Roblin.

“We have hospitals and we have doctors. Why are you taking those services away from us?”

The community was told by Prairie Mountain Health, the authority that oversees the region, that blood and electrocardiogram services will remain in Roblin, but it will lose its lab technicians and X-ray services.

“You can no longer have acute care,” Knight said about the losses.

“We have four doctors in Roblin, who we’ve worked very hard as a community to get. We rallied together for years to try to secure doctors in our community but of course, we’re not going to keep them if we don’t have an emergency room.

“So this is very devastating, even more so that we were only given five business days to deal with this news.”

Jana Knight says Roblin has fought hard to find doctors for its health centre and losing its lab technicians is ‘devastating’ and ‘distressing.’ (Submitted by Jana Knight)

Word came from the health authority on Aug. 21 that the lab would be shut down on Sept. 1, Knight said.

“We always thought we’d lose our ER because we didn’t have doctors, not because Prairie Mountain Health would take our lab people away,” Knight said.

“This is pretty dirty pool.”

Prairie Mountain Health deferred comment to the provincial government and Shared Health, which is responsible for diagnostic services in Manitoba.

Shared Health confirmed the closure in an emailed statement that says it is necessary due to “a number of staff vacancies throughout the geographic area” caused by retirements, resignations and maternity leaves.

Recruitment to fill vacancies throughout the area is ongoing, beginning in Russell, the statement said.

“Every effort is being made to maintain as much service as possible while the recruitment process is underway. Consolidating diagnostics temporarily in Russell will ensure predictable and reliable services continue to be provided in the wider geographic area,” the email said.

Knight said there is no public transportation linking the two communities and eliminating the lab in Roblin will be difficult for seniors.

“This is very distressing,” she said. “And we have a large M├ętis population that lives north of our town, which is even more difficult for them to reach health services.”

Roblin, which has a population of about 1,600 people, is 330 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg.

Russell, with a population of about 1,300, is straight south of Roblin on Highway 83.

“A 30-minute drive doesn’t sound like a lot. Lots of people have to travel 30 minutes to see a doctor in the city,” Knight said.

“But 30 minutes of highway driving and 30 minutes of catching a bus or an Uber or a taxi in the city is a lot different. The handi-van is not going to run seniors here back and forth between their appointments.”

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