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Problem is getting patients long-term care, not clogged waiting rooms, inquest hears

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Contrary to popular belief, it is not patients with minor injuries causing overcrowding in hospital emergency rooms.

Dr. Grant Innes, an emergency room doctor in Calgary and an expert in emergency room overcrowding and patient flow, said the main problem is not being able to get critically ill patients out of the emergency room.

Innes said the problem goes all the way to patients being blocked from getting out of hospital to long-term care beds.

"Too many patients waiting too long in the wrong place," he told an inquest looking into the death of Brian Sinclair today.

Innes said studies show transferring patients with minor injuries to urgent care centres really doesn't free up ER space.

"The overwhelming cause is blocked patients," he said.

Innes said one patient he studied -- who had a scratched cornea -- illustrates how blocking occurs because it took them almost three hours to be seen and treated in the ER.

But Innes said when he had a similar ailment and was treated there by a doctor he knew the entire time was nine minutes.

He said the rest of the time spent by the other patient included repeated questioning by health care staff and documenting the ailment.

"This type of inefficiency shouldn't be allowed to exist."

Sinclair, 45, died in Sept. 2008, after waiting in the HSC emergency waiting room for 34 hours. A coroner said Sinclair, a double amputee who used a wheelchair, could have died up to seven hours before he was noticed.

The inquest, which has been holding hearings on and off since last August, is in its final week.

Kevin.Rollason@freepress.mb.ca

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