WRHA CEO says current hospital wait times are concerning

The CEO of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA) calls current hospital wait times concerning, as COVID-19 continues to spread.

In an internal memo obtained by CTV News Winnipeg, WRHA CEO Mike Nader tells staff he wants to acknowledge the “challenges” facing emergency and urgent care departments.

“Our current Emergency Department (ED) and Urgent Care (UC) metrics are concerning,” writes Nader.

“Wait times for lower-acuity patients have gone up considerably in recent months.”

The memo says the pandemic continues to impact the ability to “stabilize” the system, as COVID-19 is still spreading through the community.

“This is leading to a higher-than-normal increase in COVID-positive Medicine patients and is creating additional pressure,” writes Nader.

Nader says there are also patients who avoided care during the pandemic who are now showing up sicker and requiring longer care.

Adding to the challenges are staff shortages, with the memo saying sick time is at a record high. It appears to show 10 per cent of staff were off sick recently.

“We have staff who are off work due to symptoms or confirmed cases of COVID,” writes Nader. “A recent change in return-to-work protocols has additionally impacted the time that staff who test positive for COVID-19 remain away from work.”

As of April 6, a rapid antigen test is required for staff returning before a full 10 days have passed since the onset of symptoms or a positive test.

Nader writes there are some measures being taken to cut down on the wait times, like redirecting lower acuity patients to urgent care and a pilot plan testing patients for COVID-19 upon arrival to speed up patient flow. The memo says the health authority is also “refining” the inter-region transfer protocol and the virtual COVID outpatient program to open up medical beds in the bigger hospitals.

Nader says senior officials with the health authority and Shared Heath have been visiting hospitals looking for feedback and solutions.

“So allow me to repeat again my call for your insight, criticism, and ideas,” writes Nader.

“I am asking that you share with your manager any ideas or opportunities, especially as it relates to improving our flow of patients right now.”

As of noon Monday, wait times at Winnipeg’s ER and UC departments were as follows:

ER departments

  • HSC Adult: 6.75 hours
  • HSC Children’s: four hours
  • St. Boniface: 6.75 hours
  • Grace: five hours

 UC departments

  •  Concordia: 5.5 hours
  • Seven Oaks: 5.25 hours
  • Victoria: 4.25 hours

According to published statistics, in February, nine out of 10 patients waited an average of 10 hours at HSC’s adult ER.

CTV News Winnipeg has reached out to the WRHA, Shared Health, and the health minister for a response. Shared Health directed CTV News Winnipeg to the WRHA.

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