December 8, 2010

Region moves to reduce ER wait times

Ambulances will take stable patients to Misericordia Urgent Care Centre

Ambulances will begin transporting stable patients to Misericordia Health Centre's Urgent Care tomorrow as part of a pilot project designed to reduce wait times for patients and off-loading times for paramedics.

Further Reading
About Urgent Care at Misericordia Health Centre

The project - the result of a collaborative effort of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service - will mean patients with non-life-threatening conditions, who don't need to be admitted to hospital, will be taken to the care facility more appropriate to their needs, said Lori Lamont, Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer for the Region.

"This will lessen demands in our Emergency Departments for the stable patients who previously waited in Emergency at the end of the triage scale and also for the paramedics who bring them," Lamont said, noting that during the initial implementation of the pilot project ambulances will take patients to Urgent Care only between 7:30 a.m. and 10 p.m.

It is expected that 10 to 14 ambulances per day will bring stable patients with concerns such as animal bites and broken wrists to Urgent Care. Previously, these patients would have been taken to an Emergency Department.

"This is the first time ambulances in our city will be transporting patients to Urgent Care," said Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service Chief Jim Brennan. "We're pleased as this initiative allows for patients to be taken to facility best suited to address their health-care needs and it will free up our paramedics and get them back on our streets sooner to respond to calls."

Under the new system, stable patients will be taken to the triage desk of the Urgent Care Centre and once triaged, paramedics will be able to leave.

"Urgent Care is excited to begin receiving ambulances," says Dr. John Reda, Misericordia's Chief Medical Officer and Urgent Care Director. "Not all patients using ambulances need to go to a full-service hospital Emergency Department. Our Urgent Care health team is equipped to handle non-life-threatening conditions, including providing diagnostic tests such as x-rays or blood work."

All patients who arrive either by ambulance or walk-in at the Urgent Care Centre will continue to be seen by a doctor based on the severity of their health-care needs. The length of their wait will depend on the severity of sickness or injuries of other patients and the number of patients waiting at any given time.

About Urgent Care at Misericordia Health Centre

When Urgent Care at Misericordia Health Centre opened in 1998, it was the first of its kind in Canada. Providing 24-hour assessment and treatment, the centre helps members of the community with non-life threatening emergencies who can't see their own family doctor or don't have one.

The medical staff manages a wide range of health concerns, from cuts needing stitches to babies with high fevers, and to those living with mental health issues. The centre provides diagnostic testing such as lab work and x-rays. Staff can set and cast broken bones and offer counselling and referral for emotional concerns.

Patients also have access to services such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy, nutrition, pharmacy and respiratory therapy.

The centre offers a comfortable environment. The waiting area has a large-screen television, slate brick fireplace and large windows looking out to the Assiniboine River. A children's play area features sofa chairs and toys. It is the first health facility in Winnipeg to offer patients free wireless access to the Internet.

With nearly 41,000 patients each year, the centre plays an important role in reducing visits to local hospital emergency rooms.

Emergency rooms across the Winnipeg Health Region receive patients with life-threatening or potentially life-threatening conditions, such as severe chest pains, stroke or trauma. Patients transported by ambulance are sent to specific health centres in Winnipeg, including sending cardiac patients to St. Boniface General Hospital's Cardiac Centre or burn victims to Health Sciences Centre. Sick children are transported to the Emergency Department at Children's Hospital.

The Urgent Care Centre at the Misericordia Health Centre deals with serious, but not life-threatening conditions, such as a fractured arm or a cut that may need stitches.

If you are not certain whether to go to Urgent Care or an Emergency Department, call 911 and Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service will take you to the appropriate location. If you are not feeling well and are unsure about where you should go, you can seek guidance by calling Health Links - Info Santé (788-8200), a telephone hotline for health-care information operated by the Winnipeg Health Region 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Urgent Care is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call 204-788-8188 for more information.

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