Minor injury and illness clinic set to open in Brandon this fall, premier says

The province is banking on a $1-million investment to reduce ER wait times with the opening of a minor injury and illness clinic in Brandon.

The clinic, expected to open in September, is part of $17 million earmarked in the provincial budget, rolling out April 2, to open five primary care clinics and three minor injury and illness clinics in Manitoba, Premier Wab Kinew announced at the Brandon Regional Health Centre  on Wednesday.

“This minor injury and illness clinic, it effectively functions somewhat like an urgent care centre,” Kinew said. “It’s for those less acute conditions.

“It’s not quite at the level of ER, but you do need to get addressed right away.”

Mayor Jeff Fawcett said emergency rooms in Brandon and across Canada are facing challenges.

He said it’s also been concerning to see walk-in clinics closing in the city.

A person stands at a podium as people fill a staircase listening.
Uzoma Asagwara. minister of health, seniors and long-term care, says the clinic will help reduce wait times at the Brandon Regional Health Centre emergency room. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

“Our ER in Brandon has been stretched,” Fawcett said. “This is a well-needed service in Brandon.”

The Brandon clinic will be staffed by doctors, nurse practitioners and nurses who will provide primary health-care services and support for minor health-care concerns. Patients will be able to book same-day appointments and connect with health-care providers via the Virutal Care Resource Centre.

It will operate 12 hours a day, seven days a week as a starting point, Kinew said. An interim site will open in Brandon this September while Prairie Mountain Health identifies a permanent location.

Brandon is a growing city and health-care needs are growing in tandem, said Uzoma Asagwara, health, seniors and long-term care minister.

The province estimates the new clinic could see more than 700 people every week..

“Wait times are not where they need to be … wait times as they are right now are unacceptable,” Asagwara said. 

In Brandon, ER wait times were reduced recently with steps including having a nurse practitioner in the ER. Asagwara said this shows multi-disciplinary teams work, and this has informed how the new clinic will operate.

Outgoing Prairie Mountain Health CEO Brian Schoonbaert said working collectively health-care partners are taking steps to improve access within Westman.

“We know that access to primary care services in Brandon and in surrounding areas has been challenging,” Schoonbaert said. There are limited clinics available, especially on evenings and weekends and no walk-in clinics available in the communities surrounding Brandon.

“It is very important that this … will reduce the number of folks presenting to the Brandon ER,” Schoonbaert said. “We all know that the wait times have been long but we will hope that there will be far fewer having to present to the ER, therefore reducing the waiting list.”

A man talks at a podium
Brandon Mayor Jeff Fawcett says the city’s emergency department has been stressed, so the minor injury and illness clinic could help reduce wait times. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

MLA Wayne Balcaen (PC Brandon West) said while the expansion of health care in Brandon is welcomed, the proposed plan does not address staff shortages.

“The NDP health minister … showed up to Brandon empty-handed, where over 100 job openings for doctors and nurses need to be filled. An empty clinic won’t treat patients,” Balcaen said in a statement to CBC. “The NDP still has not come forward with a credible plan to fill health-care vacancies. … Alluding to money in the budget and telling workers to pick up more shifts while making their announcement is an insult.” 

Staffing core in reducing wait times

Staffing is at the core of the provincial health-care strategy, Asagwara said. 

“We want to repair the relationship with health-care workers. We want to create the best culture in health care in the country,” Asagwara said. “That’s how you retain health-care workers. That’s how you recruit health-care workers and that’s how you make health care in Manitoba the strongest it can be.”

Recruitment of health-care workers is a challenge across Canada, and staffing is a concern when it comes to opening the clinic, Schoonbaert said.

The clinic will use an interdisciplinary team approach and collaborative care model to ensure full staffing, he said.

Prairie Mountain Health and partners will also actively recruit physicians, support recruiting and training within Westman, and continue discussions with nurses so they can work to the full scope of practices.

They also want to recruit in the community for the community, Asagwara said. They can train health-care workers in their own communities and they will be more likely to stay and work with Prairie Mountain Health.

A man passionatly lifts his fist while speaking at a podium.
Brian Schoonbaert, the outgoing CEO of Prairie Mountain Health, says a combination of initiatives will be use to recruit health-care workers to Westman. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

The province is looking at training nurses who can practise but don’t have the accreditation by making it easier to get the accreditation they need, Asagwara said.

“There’s no one silver bullet in terms of addressing the staffing challenges but there are many different approaches that we have to be able to take simultaneously to meet those needs,” Asagwara said.

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