Winnipeg ERs taking steps to improve wait times, which are on the rise

Winnipeg’s emergency departments and urgent care centres are taking steps to address wait times, including implementing immediate changes while also working to create long-term solutions.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA) issued a news release on Thursday, saying data for March 2022 shows an increase in overall median waits at WRHA and Shares Health facilities. The health authority notes that these facilities were dealing with increased sick calls from staff and delays in accessing inpatient beds.

WRHA CEO Mike Nader said wait times for the sickest and most injured patients are minimal, as those experiencing emergent or life-threatening illnesses are prioritized.

“However, a number of challenges are continuing to place increasing amounts of pressure on our emergency and urgent care departments, causing patients with less significant concerns to wait longer to receive care,” Nader said in the news release.

“We are committed to addressing and overcoming these challenges.”

According to the WRHA, median wait times in March increased by 37 minutes, compared to the previous month, to 2.8 hours.

The WRHA noted that increased wait times are also causing a more patients to leave without being seen.

Dr. Shawn Young, HSC Winnipeg’s chief operating officer, said current wait time challenges didn’t happen overnight, but have been worsened by COVID-19.

“High volumes of patients across our inpatient units are impacting patient flow, blocking treatment spaces in the emergency departments and urgent care centres until those patients can be admitted to a unit,” Young said.

WRHA and Shared Health leadership have been meeting with emergency and urgent care physicians and staff over the past few weeks.

These meetings have led to the implementation of some changes, including levelling ambulance transport arrivals across facilities, and speeding up COVID-19 test results.

The WRHA and Shared Health say they are also committed to longer-term improvements for wait times including recruitment efforts to fill vacant roles across the system; focused efforts to discharge patients who are ready to go home or move to a personal care bed; and using inter-region patient transfers.

WRHA and Shared Health leadership will continue to meet with emergency and urgent care staff to identify solutions for the longer wait times.

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