Regional hospital, then and now


By Ken Waddell

The Neepawa Banner

Back in 2007, the 11 doctors that were serving the Neepawa and Minnedosa areas teamed up to promote the establishment of a regional hospital between the two towns at Franklin.

The proposed hospital was suggested as a way of replacing aging health care facilities in both towns and at the same time, creating enough hospital beds so as to attract and keep a large number of doctors. The thought being that the larger the number of doctors, the fewer nights per month of on-call duty and the wider the range of available medical skill sets. 

The idea gained a lot of momentum and little opposition. As publisher of the Neepawa Banner, I supported the idea fully. Ten towns and municipalities passed resolutions endorsing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) supporting the concept.

There have been many arguments for and against a regional hospital but the purpose of this article isn’t  to argue for or against a centrally located regional hospital as much as  to focus discussion. It’s just that a lot has changed since 2007 and those changes must be considered.  Assumptions made back in 2007 are no longer valid. A lot has changed since and several factors that no one could have predicted in 2007 need to be brought to the table. With newly elected councils in place, it’s a good time to let the discussion begin.

Population figures:


Minnedosa: 2474

Neepawa: 3298


Minnedosa: 2587

Neepawa: 3629

Neepawa population now exceeds 4,000 and with over 300 Hylife employees working towards their Permanent Residency (PR) status and wanting to bring their spouses and kids to Neepawa, that figure is expected to go 4,600.

School enrolment:


2006: 786 – 2014: 904


 2006: 613 – 2014: 519



Minnedosa: 6

Neepawa: 5


Minnedosa: 3

Neepawa: 6

Of those six from 2006, in Minnedosa, four no longer practise in Minnedosa, but there are currently three doctors in Minnedosa

Of those five from 2006, in Neepawa, two no longer practise at Neepawa but there are currently six in Neepawa

Under the proposed regional hospital or Franklin hospital plan, Minnedosa gets to keep its current facility but, it will be re-purposed for long term elderly care or perhaps as a rehab centre. Minnedosa’s facility is much newer and modern overall. Under the current proposal, Neepawa will lose its hospital entirely, as the RHA has indicated it would be demolished.

The RHA favoured site for a new regional hospital, at Franklin will require over $5 million extra in infrastructure improvements, much of which would not be required if the hospital were placed in an urban centre. The proposed sewage system is predicted to cost and extra $2 million. Hydro has to be upgraded, the highway approach, the gas lines and the water lines all have to be upgraded.

In 1999, the Country Meadows care home project was announced. It was eight years before it was built and while the project was reduced from 120 beds at East View Lodge, to 100 beds, it was set up from the get-go to accommodate an attached hospital. There were extra costs incurred to purchase and service the larger site as the RHA insisted that the land base be 10 acres. The extra land and extra cost was  to accommodate an ambulance garage and a hospital. The laundry and dietary facilities were built to handle the needs of both the care home and a hospital. The RMs of Langford, Lansdowne and Rosedale, along with the Town of Neepawa, contributed heavily to that extra cost of land and construction costs under the assumption that someday, the extra land as well as laundry and dietary capacity being paid for in 2008 would reap the benefit of having a new hospital some day at Neepawa.

The RHA states that with a new regional facility located at Franklin, laundry will be transported to Country Meadows, so obviously the laundry facilities are still considered to be large enough to handle both the existing care home and a new hospital. There hasn’t been any comment from the RHA about the capacity of food services to handle the dietary needs of the care home and a hospital.

A number of concerns came out at the time of the initial proposal. Concerns about winter highway conditions and getting doctors and staff to the hospital. That’s a valid concern, but it didn’t get a lot of sympathy as about half the area’s population has to travel on winter roads all the time to get to either town. For people who live out of town, it’s just a fact of life.

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Another concern that potentially affects everyone is that when you go to a hospital to have a test or to sit with a sick loved one, you expect to actually be somewhere with services such as motels, a flower shop, restaurants and pharmacies. There are no such services at Franklin and that is a valid concern.

If a regional hospital is built, it will have a lab for sure, but it’s also been stated that there will be some lab work at the medical clinics in each town. Who is going to pay for more lab space? It almost certainly won’t be Manitoba Health or the RHA.  It will fall back on the local taxpayers or the owners of the respective clinics in each town.

The proposal to have a regional hospital was doctor driven specifically lead by Dr. Ong of Neepawa and Dr. Roche, formerly of Minnedosa. It certainly was a well stated case back in 2007 but again a lot has changed. The number of doctors in Minnedosa is currently way down, it may come back, it may not. The number of doctors in Neepawa has increased and there’s one more doctor for sure and maybe three more coming in 2015.  The increase in doctors in Neepawa has happened for many reasons but not the least of which is that there was a medical clinic committee started around 2001 which was later adopted by the Neepawa Area Development Corporation (NADCO). NADCO bought the old clinic in Neepawa, refurbished it and then expanded it to make clinic space for up to 10 doctors at Neepawa. The refurbished Neepawa clinic was opened in 2012. Minnedosa has been grappling with building a clinic. The problem is that it’s difficult to build a clinic and pay for it if there aren’t enough doctors to pay the rent. The Neepawa clinic was bought through NADCO and financed by the three partnering municipalities and the Town of Neepawa. The renovations and expansion have been paid for from fundraising and rents. In addition, there is a suite in the basement for visiting med students, a big plus for Neepawa to entice more doctors to come to town.

Perhaps Minnedosa hospital should have some upgrades and some re-purposing but should Neepawa be left without a hospital at all? Neepawa and the surrounding area have already paid a big chunk of cash towards a new hospital in Neepawa by way of paying their 10 percent local contribution towards the cost of the extra land, the extra laundry capacity and the extra dietary facilities at Country Meadows. Neepawa and area should not be expected to pay again, when they have already paid.

There are undoubtedly more arguments that can be made for and against the placement of a regional hospital but the discussion needs to take place. Some of the RMs that signed the MOU don’t even exist now due to amalgamation and that’s a factor as well. With new councils in place, as of last Wednesday, it’s an ideal time to have the discussion.

The regional hospital is predicted to cost $100 million. Should the province and the partners ever be able to come up with the money, it’s imperative the we all get the location right.