November 7, 2000

Ambulance Distribution Pilot Project Underway

Coordinating ambulances and emergency rooms

Over the next three weeks the City of Winnipeg Fire and Paramedic Services (WFPS) and the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority will be initiating a two-stage pilot project designed to reduce pressure on emergency rooms during high use periods.

The first stage of the process, effective November 9th, is an ambulance redirection policy. This allows emergency rooms to divert all ambulances to other sites for one hour if their resuscitation room reaches maximum capacity. "Ambulance and ER teams have redesigned the diversion process into one they feel is more practical and will provide the immediate and short-term relief that is sometimes required," said Dr. Brian Postl, Health Authority CEO. "There are checks and balances built into the plan, to ensure that diversions are used appropriately and only one hospital at a time can initiate a diversion, but we will closely monitor the approach and refine it as necessary."

The second stage of the process, effective December 1st , is a destination policy to improve the distribution of patients on an ongoing basis. Patients without a family physician, who do not require specialist care will be shared among emergency rooms in the City, not necessarily going to the site closest to their home. "These plans have been the first priority of the joint operations group established this summer between the two organizations," says Wes Shoemaker, COO, WFPS. "With the 16 ambulances now on the road during peak hours and the hiring and training of 32 paramedics complete, we can focus on working through some of these long standing operational issues."

In the plan, two emergency department triads will be formed. Health Sciences Centre, Grace Hospital and Seven Oaks General Hospital will work together, as will St. Boniface, Concordia and Victoria Hospitals.

The public needs to recognize that there will be occasions when their preference for a specific hospital may at times be overridden by this new destination policy and the paramedics knowledge of the pressure in that emergency room at that time. While every effort will be made to accommodate people's wishes, the ability to provide the appropriate services for the patient remains the primary concern.

The joint operations committee of the Fire and Paramedic Service and the Health Authority will study other measures over the next several weeks to improve pre-hospital and emergency services within the Winnipeg Health region.

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