Emergency department wait times see sustained improvement
Strong year-end performance despite a busy flu season and increase in sicker patients
Winnipeg Regional Health Authority
Tuesday, April 17, 2018
The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA) today released preliminary year-end wait times for 2017/18, showing an overall 16 per cent improvement in wait times since the region began implementing consolidation strategies in October 2017.
“Over the past year, we have seen sustained improvement in emergency department (ED) wait times,” said Krista Williams, chief health operations officer of acute care for the WRHA. “Our physicians and staff have played vital roles in this early success. Their dedication to improved patient care and access has allowed us to see improvement through the first phase of consolidation despite an increased number of very sick patients in recent months.”
Williams noted the median wait time improved to 1.62 hours in 2017/18 from 1.93 hours in 2016/17 and inpatient length of stay improved by 6 per cent over the same period. Emergency departments across the region have seen an increased number of sicker patients in recent months, accompanied by an increased number of patients admitted to hospital.
“A busy flu season and a recent 10 per cent increase in the sickest category of patients seen in our emergency departments (triaged at levels one and two) have affected our most recent wait times,” said Williams. “The increased number of admitted patients does highlight the opportunity we have in Phase II of our consolidation plans to use new sub-acute care space for those patients who require admission, but who do not need an acute level of care. This will in turn significantly alleviate pressure on our emergency departments.”
There are at least 35 patients currently occupying beds in inpatient units at acute hospitals in Winnipeg (Grace, St. Boniface and HSC) who would be more appropriately cared for in a sub-acute setting, Williams added. The addition of sub-acute units at Concordia and Seven Oaks Hospitals in Phase II will more than triple the current sub-acute care space. The existing 59 beds at Victoria Hospital have been operating at capacity since the region consolidated its focus on sub-acute patients in October 2017.
“Emergency departments and the WRHA Executive Team review system capacity and flow daily to identifying trends and provide support to sites experiencing high volumes. This information continues to be incorporated into the careful, deliberate planning of Phase II of the Healing our Health System plan, of which further details will be announced in the coming weeks.”
Important highlights of note across the system include:
- All adult EDs and urgent care reduced their median wait times, ranging from an improvement of 11.7% at Grace to 28.8% at Victoria;
- We continue to see an elevated level of patients with severe illnesses presenting to emergency departments. Since December, Winnipeg emergency departments are seeing an 8% increase in ambulances (about 10/day) and a 9% increase in patients requiring admission to hospital (about 9/day). There remain fewer seniors waiting in hospital for Personal Care Home placement than any other year with only 12 people waiting as of Friday, April 13;
- The Transitional Care Environment at River Ridge II is operating at 100% capacity;
- Priority home welcomed its 100th client this week;
- The number of patients who left the ED without being seen is down 22 percent in 2017/18;
- Winnipeg EDs continue to see one to two patients per day who are experiencing adverse effects of methamphetamines and who often stay in the department longer than 12 hours without needing admission to an inpatient unit. Additionally, 20 per cent of those one or two daily visits last longer than 24 hours, compared to an average visit to emergency or urgent care of only 3.6 hours.