WINNIPEG health officials have launched an advertising campaign they hope will raise awareness about alternatives to hospital emergency rooms.
The idea is to steer people with less-serious illnesses and afflictions away from the city's overtaxed ERs to other types of clinics to reduce ER wait times.
The ads, which are to appear in newspapers this weekend as well as on radio, billboards and buses, cost the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority $150,000 to produce and to place. They will run all month.
The WRHA has also created a website -- www.myrightcare.ca/ -- that lists a variety of alternatives to a trip to emergency. The website includes contact information and hours of operation for various types of clinics and provides examples of appropriate treatments for each. The website will soon include a search function that will let users view all alternate treatment locations within a certain geographic area.
Arlene Wilgosh, president and CEO of the WRHA, said the campaign is part of a broad effort to reduce the huge numbers of less-urgent cases in ERs.
Right now, less-urgent visits represent anywhere from 35 to 45 per cent of all ER traffic, causing lengthy ER waits. The WRHA is hoping to reduce that to 20 per cent by 2015.
"Our (ER) volumes are increasing and we need to find a way to deal with those increasing volumes in a way that continues to provide good care," Wilgosh said.
With the creation of QuickCare Clinics staffed by nurse practitioners and several Access centres across the city, there are more appropriate alternatives for people with less-serious afflictions and illnesses, she said Thursday.
"We want people to get the right care by the right provider at the right time," said Wilgosh. "It's better for the patient and it's better for our providers because then they can be focusing on providing the care to the people that really need emergency care."
At the same time, Wilgosh said, people should visit an ER if they are unsure about where to go.
Officials say ERs should be used in the case of a heart attack, major trauma, severe head injury, severe difficulty breathing, sexual assault, domestic violence, severe bleeding or any time a person is unconscious.