A new emergency room at the St. Boniface General Hospital will reduce wait times for patients and reduce the chance of someone dying while waiting to see a doctor, health officials said Wednesday.
The $645,000 renovation, unveiled Wednesday, is in response to last year's death of Brian Sinclair at the Health Sciences Centre ER and part of a system-wide response to realign emergency rooms throughout the province so there is increased contact between patients and hospital staff.
Dr. Alecs Chochinov, emergency room medical director at the St. Boniface General Hospital, said the new ER will allow nurses and doctors to treat patients more quickly.
"This is where the care begins for out patients," he said. "It's not simply a pretty ante room."
Health Minister Theresa Oswald said the renovation was triggered by Sinclair's death and a subsequent review of hospital ERs which said sight-lines between staff and patients must be improved so no patient goes unnoticed.
Sinclair, a 45-year-old double amputee, waited in the emergency department for about 34 hours without being examined. A provincial inquest will be held to examine the circumstances leading up to his death. No date has been set.
Oswald said the province is also looking at installing electronic monitors in waiting rooms so patients can see for themselves where they are on the waiting list.
"Having information like, 'I have been waiting for X number of minutes, but now I know that four ambulances have come in and there are four heart attacks that people are working on,'" Oswald said.
"That's good information for me as a patient in understanding why I might need to wait a little longer."
The opposition Tories countered while making Manitoba's ERs more patient-friendly is a step in the right direction, more has to be done to put more nurses on the job and cut down on the high number of patients who walk out of an ER without ever seeing a doctor.
Tory health critic Myrna Driedger said last year 21,406 people left an ER without being treated, up from 19,573 two years earlier, according to figures provided by the Tories through an access to information request.
The total number of visits in 2008-09 were more than 300,000 visits, according to the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority. In this period, the percentage of patients who left without being seen was 7.2 per cent, up from 6.8 per the year before.
Driedger also said the health system is short nurses in ERs and intensive care units, which will only add to problems if the expected H1N1 flu outbreak this fall is widespread. Winnipeg ERs are short 73 nurses, she said.
Oswald said Health Links follows up on some patients by phone who leave hospital ERs to see that they're OK.
"It's not the case in every hospital so far, but we're working to build our capacity towards that," she said.
Oswald said the nursing shortage is a chronic problem across Canada.
She said the shortage of ICU nurses has been reduced in Manitoba with more nurses enrolled in specialize training.
St. Boniface hospital wait time targets:
Time to arrival to registration/triage complete:
Now: 37 minutes
Target: 10 minutes
Triage time Now: 6 minutes
Target: 4 minutes