News

WRHA Incident Command Team examines impacts of Churchill rail line washout

Winnipeg Regional Health Authority
Published Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The WRHA has created an Incident Command Team to consider and address impacts associated with the closure of the Hudson Bay Railway (HBR) to Churchill, Manitoba.

The HBR is a vital transportation link to northern Manitoba, hauling food, fuel and other goods and materials required in the north. Operations on the line were suspended in early June after damage caused by a heavy spring melt.

Formed in June, the Incident Command Team is tasked with conducting risk and continuity assessments on WRHA infrastructure in Churchill, including the Churchill Health Centre (CHC) and staff housing. The team is also liaising with other concerned parties, including the provincial government and the Town Of Churchill. Membership on the team includes representation from WRHA Emergency and Continuity Management, the CHC, Capital Planning and Facility Management, Logistics, and Communications, among other departments.

The Team is being led by Laura Wessman, Chief Operating Officer of the CHC.

"Our primary concern is the continued operation of the Churchill Health Centre, which serves a community of more than 800 residents as well as patients and clients from surrounding communities in Manitoba and the Nunavut Region, Kitikmeot Region and the Baffin Region," Wessman says. "While there are no immediate impediments to the Centre's operations, we need to ensure we are looking at contingency plans going forward, particularly for the winter season."

The health centre, which is an operating division of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, has a staff of 129 people. It provides a wide range of health-care services, including: 24-hour emergency medical care, in-patient care, pediatric dental surgery, elderly care, patient transport arrangements, interim care of critically ill patients awaiting transfer to a primary care facility, rehabilitation and chronic care.

Prior to the rail line being washed out, plans had begun for upgrades and repairs to staff housing in Churchill following damage from blizzards in March, supplies for which were originally scheduled to arrive by rail. Alternate plans are currently being investigated so that this work can proceed.

For the time being, the WRHA is shipping food and supplies by truck to Thompson, from which they are flown into Churchill.

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