WINNIPEG – It may sound like a broken record, but Winnipeg still has the longest ER wait times in Canada.
The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) has released its 2015-2016 report, and if you look at how long it takes 90 per cent of patients to see a doctor after they check into an emergency room (or the 90th percentile), the Winnipeg wait is 5.5 hours while Canada clocks in at 3.1 hours.
The worst of the worst is Concordia Hospital, where the wait is 6.8 hours. Victoria General is not far behind at 6.7 hours.
Compared to last year, most of the hospitals saw a very small decrease in wait times, with two exceptions: Victoria’s wait time actually rose from 6.4 to 6.7 hours, while Grace saw a noticeable drop from 6.3 to 5.1 hours.
But the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority believes those numbers don’t paint the clearest picture (numbers which are provided by the WRHA). Since the start of this fiscal year, they say wait times have dropped 8.5 per cent.
“We are seeing some significant improvements. We’re pleased with that progress. We recognize that we still have significantly more progress to make,” explains Lori Lamont, VP and Chief Nursing Officer with the WRHA. “For us, internally, it’s very encouraging. Nobody is pleased with having people wait a long time for care, so being able to point to a particular initiative has been really helpful.”
One of those initiatives is what Lamont calls rapid assessment zones or intake teams. It’s a dedicated space within the ER where patients come in and are moved very quickly from the waiting room into those areas where they are seen by a physician or a nurse. This is important considering 45 per cent of ER patients are ‘low-acuity’.
One question to ask is: why do so many people go into emergency rooms with minor ailments when they know they could be waiting for hours?
“We’re trying to understand that better, trying to get some feedback from the public. We’re trying to provide some education when they do come about what some of the other options are,” Lamont says. “I think sometimes people aren’t as aware of the options in the neighbourhood. Everybody knows where the hospital is. Sometimes it’s the confidence, they know that if they come they will get care. It may take some time but they will get care. Sometimes its the hours of operation.”
CIHI points out that it only has full data coverage from Alberta and Ontario and partial coverage in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Yukon. No data is available for Quebec, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.