November 14, 2008

Cardiac Care Based on Urgency, Logic

Patients urgently requiring cardiac care receive treatment when they need it. That's what Dr. Alan Menkis, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority's (WRHA) Medical Director of the Cardiac Sciences Program says of the program's triage method of treating patients.

About 42 per cent of all of the Program's patients receive their surgery as an inpatient during their first hospital visit, and therefore these cases don't appear in the wait list statistics.

"Cardiac patients who are in the hospital and too ill to go home are, obviously, in the urgent category," says Menkis. "Patients who come in through emergency with a life threatening problem receive treatment minutes to hours from their arrival, in the next available operating room."

People in these patient categories, along with those awaiting surgery, have their surgeries within acceptable timelines, according to established national standards. Menkis notes the WRHA's Cardiac Sciences Program has consistently met or exceeded the national standards for cardiac wait times.

Often, patients are required to wait for surgery in their own best interests. Menkis says hospitalized patients, whose conditions require stabilization or further investigation, typically wait one to two weeks for surgery. There are some patients who choose to delay surgery to attend special occasions, such as a family wedding, and those requests are honoured wherever appropriate.

Menkis says the condition of every patient is carefully considered when priorizing surgery dates. In cases where the patient's condition unexpectedly worsens, that patient is rescheduled accordingly.

About 42 per cent of all of the Program's patients receive their surgery as an inpatient during their first hospital visit, and therefore these cases don't appear in the wait list statistics.

"Patients, who do not need emergency surgery but are in stable condition, may actually be better off to wait five to seven days for surgery, so their bodies can recover from pre-operative therapies, such as blood thinning medications, so they can go to surgery under optimal circumstances," says Menkis.

"We must balance the risks of patients waiting for surgeries against sending them to surgery too soon. The bottom line is that these patients receive their surgery when they need it."

- Aspire, Winter 2008

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