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December 3, 2003

WRHA Outlines Improvements to Emergency Care

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority is committed to continuing to improve patient services in its Emergency Departments, Dr. Brian Postl, President and CEO said today.

"I find recent media reports of delays in accessing emergency care very concerning," he said.

"And I look forward to receiving the recommendations of the Chief Medical Examiner and working with him to address his concerns."

Dr. Postl noted that even before this issue was raised in the media, the WRHA had conducted a clinical critical occurrence review and appointed a team to implement its recommendations for improving emergency care. Those recommendations are already in the process of being implemented.

They include:

  • Improving protocols for regularly reassessing Emergency Department patients after their initial triage.
  • Clarifying the roles and responsibilities of the Triage Nurse and Clinical Resource Nurse, to improve communication and problem solving capacity.
  • Ensuring vital signs are routinely documented at the initial triage stage and that all communication with waiting patients and family also is documented.
  • Expanding criteria for EKG tests to include a broader range of symptoms.

Dr. Postl said the implementation team has also been asked to review the processes in place to deal with surges in patient volume to ensure the appropriate mechanisms to deal with them are in place.

He also noted a number of improvements have already been implemented in the past few years including:

  • Actively recruiting and training ER nurses
  • Aligning staff ratios to match ER visits at each site
  • Creating positions for and hiring psychiatric nurses in ER departments to deal with mental health patients.
  • Increasing physician hours at SBGH.
  • Improving ER space through construction and/or renovations at several sites.
  • Developing and updating ambulance re-direction policies to reflect changing conditions.
  • Piloting an electronic triage system to assist the nurse, that will be in place throughout the region next year.

Dr. Postl noted that an external review conducted three years ago reported Winnipeg compared favourably to other regions, though still had room for improvement. The Report noted that, "significant resources at a senior level have been devoted to managing ED overcrowding and this has resulted in great progress."

"That does show this is an issue that health regions across the country are struggling with, not just Winnipeg," Dr. Postl said.

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