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Pallister flags drop-offs at ERs

Says paramedics still waiting too long

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"Ambulance wait times are excessively long," Conservative leader Brian Pallister said. Photo Store

Paramedics continue to incur long waits when dropping off patients at city hospitals, the provincial Opposition says.

According to statistics obtained by the Manitoba Progressive Conservatives, the average ambulance drop-off time last year in Winnipeg was 75.6 minutes, up slightly from 74.6 minutes in 2012.

The longer waits occurred despite several government initiatives to take the strain off hospital emergency rooms by steering non-emergency patients to other forms of care.

'The ambulance wait times are excessively long...'

-- Conservative Leader Brian Pallister

"The ambulance wait times are excessively long, and Manitoba patients deserve to get access to health care in a more efficient manner," Conservative Leader Brian Pallister said Thursday.

In 2011, the average wait for ambulances to clear city hospitals after arriving with patients was 66 minutes.

"We know that an increase over the last two years of approximately 15 per cent in those times demonstrates that the government's promises to address the issue are being broken, that whatever approaches they're taking are ineffective. And they need to be effective," Pallister said.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority is fined by the City of Winnipeg when paramedics wait longer than 60 minutes to off-load patients. The patients don't necessarily wait in the ambulance but are attended to by paramedics in the emergency-room area until they can be transferred.

In 2013, off-load fees charged to the WRHA exceeded $1.4 million, compared with $1.6 million in 2012.

The WRHA wants to be able to off-load all ambulance patients at city hospitals within 60 minutes by 2015. It set the goal about a year and a half ago.

Health Minister Erin Selby said Thursday patient flows in the city's hospital ERs are still a government priority. She said there is no one solution to solving the problem.

The province is trying to divert more none-emergency patients, which frequently clog ERs, to QuickCare clinics and other community clinics. It is also trying to find family doctors for those who lack one. Those who don't have their own doctor are more likely to use a hospital emergency room for non-emergency care.

Selby took issue with a Tory press release Thursday that suggested the long off-load times at city hospitals are forcing Winnipeggers to wait longer for an ambulance, threatening their safety.

"Our response times are among the best across the country," the minister said.

"In Winnipeg we have a response time of about seven to eight minutes, and people can know that if they call 911, if there's an emergency in their family, a paramedic is going to show up, maybe with an ambulance, maybe with fire-paramedics. But there will be somebody there to bring them that highly trained skill that they need to get them help they need in time of emergency."

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 23, 2014 A12

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