The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA) is hoping that more staff and expanded hours at its five Walk-In Connected Care Clinics will help reduce hospital ER wait times across the city.
The WRHA made the announcement Thursday, saying that operating hours will be 9 a.m. – 8 p.m. on weekdays, and 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. on weekends and holidays for the Fort Garry, NorWest, Winnipeg West, McGregor, and St. Boniface ACCESS clinic locations.
The new hours are in effect immediately for the Fort Garry and Winnipeg West locations and will begin Nov. 1 for the rest.
“Every month, approximately 40 per cent of people who visit a Winnipeg urgent care centre or emergency department could potentially receive their health care at another location like a walk-in clinic or a doctor’s office,” said Dr. Joss Reimer, WRHA chief medical officer of health.
She adds that ER wait times have gone up in recent months.
“Recently, we’re seeing even greater demands on our emergency and urgent care departments, and the impact that has on staff and on patients,” said Reimer.
In the meantime, the demand on Winnipeg’s walk-in clinics has been much lower. Pat Younger, executive director WRHA Community Health Services says when they looked into the accessibility of the five Walk-In Connected Care Clinics, they found significant barriers.
“A lack of timely or same-day appointments, a limited number of available service providers, and limited hours of operation,” said Younger.
The province is now spending $1.4 million to hire new nurses, doctors and other primary care staff to accommodate the extended clinic hours. Younger says this will allow clinics to add 30 more appointments per day per site, for a total of 150 additional appointments per day, effectively doubling appointment capacity.
Younger says the new hours will align with peak times at emergency rooms and urgent centres.
The WRHA has also updated its myrightcare.ca website to allow people to check the wait times at the five Walk-In Connected Care Clinics, at ERs and urgent care centres, and other walk-in clinics across the city.
“For people coming to either an emergency or urgent care department with things like minor illnesses, flus, rashes, infections, the wait time – especially right now – will typically be much longer than a walk-in clinic,” said Younger.
Younger says that wait times at most clinics are only about an hour to 90 minutes whereas ER and urgent care wait times are currently averaging around 5 hours.
Reimer recognizes not everyone may be able to check wait times or hours on a website.
“We’re really going to try to reach out and share this information through many different mechanisms,” she said. “We want them to be consistent, predictable hours so that people who can’t check on the website still are able to know where to go and when those places will be open and able to serve them.”
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