HSC hires nurses to help speed up patient drop-offs

Paramedic wait times a chronic problem

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Health Sciences Centre will add four nurses to its emergency room in the next few months solely to speed ambulance patient drop-offs.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 08/06/2013 (3404 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Health Sciences Centre will add four nurses to its emergency room in the next few months solely to speed ambulance patient drop-offs.

Helen Clark, the hospital’s vice-president and chief allied health officer, said Friday the new nurses will be in place by fall.

“The nursing staff will take over the care of that patient so that the paramedics can then turn around and get back onto the street to respond to another call,” said Clark, who also serves as the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority’s EMS and police liaison.

Joe Bryksa / Winnipeg Free Press Helen Clark (above), vice-president and chief allied health officer with Health Sciences Centre, says the four new nurses will save the hospital money in the long run so paramedics won't have to wait for patients to be admitted to the hospital, tying up ambulances.

Long waits by paramedics while dropping off patients have become a chronic problem at Winnipeg hospitals, especially at the two largest facilities — HSC and St. Boniface.

The addition of the nurses is one of two new experiments being undertaken at the two hospitals to free up paramedics more quickly. At St. B, the emergency department will employ lounge chairs instead of stretchers, where feasible, to pack in more patients.

The additional nurses at HSC will cost about $300,000, but officials say they expect to recoup the money in savings through shorter drop-off times. Hospitals are billed by the city when ambulances are forced to sit for more than 60 minutes to drop off a patient. Between January and August 2012, city hospitals were invoiced slightly more than $1 million for ambulance drop-off delays.

City and provincial health officials have been trying to deal with emergency room overcrowding by building new clinics to take patients with less serious illnesses and by finding new ways to make hospitals more efficient.

Clark said the most critically ill patients are seen immediately, but those who are stable — even when brought in by ambulance — have to wait their turn. “Someone in the waiting room might actually be sicker than the person who comes in by ambulance so they would take priority,” she said.

Only one of the four nurses will be on duty at a time. The four will cover off 16 hours, seven days a week.

Christian Schmidt, acting deputy chief of EMS and 911 communications with the Winnipeg Fire and Paramedic Service, said the city views the hospital’s decision to add nurses as a “positive step.”

A committee of WRHA and fire and paramedic service staff meets regularly to deal with issues of common concern. The ambulance patient drop-off issue has been one of its biggest priorities.

Joe Bryksa / Winnipeg Free Press Ambulance bay at Health Sciences Centre

“We’re hopeful that the addition of the nurses will help release our crews,” Schmidt said Friday.

Last year, ambulances took longer than one hour to drop off patients in Winnipeg hospitals 23 per cent of the time. The WRHA has set a goal of ensuring all patients are handed over to hospital ERs within 60 minutes by 2015.

“Our long-term goal is, frankly, to gain other efficiencies in the system as a whole so that off-loading delays become a thing of the past,” Clark said.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.

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