ER wait times continue to rise, patients continue to give up
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Emergency room average wait times in Winnipeg increased in May, while the number of patients who left HSC without receiving care in April nearly doubled its January 2021 sum.
According to Shared Health records, in April, 1,097 patients left the downtown Health Sciences Centre ER without being seen by a physician, compared to 862 who did so in January — and 591 in January 2021.
The longest wait times for nine out of 10 patients seeking medical care at Winnipeg hospitals in May was 7.92 hours — up from 7.62 in April, provincial government data show.
Median wait times increased to 2.97 hours in May, from 2.87 in April.
At Manitoba’s largest hospital emergency department — HSC — the longest wait for nine out of 10 adult patients in May was 11.15 hours, down from 11.92 in April. For children, however, that wait time in May increased to 4.38 hours from 3.62 in April.
At St. Boniface Hospital, the longest wait for most patients decreased to 8.35 hours from 8.65. At Grace Hospital, it increased to 7.84 hours from 7.72.
When asked Monday for comment, Shared Health pointed to a news release issued June 30, quoting HSC chief operating officer Dr. Shawn Young. In it, he said wait times are holding steady, despite a substantial increase in patient demand, adding: “Many patients will continue to wait longer than normal throughout these busy summer months.”
Staff shortage continues to diminish HSC ER
ER patients at Manitoba’s largest hospital face compromised care and the potential for neglect in the waiting room as chronic nursing staff shortages continue, one front-line worker says.
Over the Canada Day long weekend, night shifts at Health Sciences Centre emergency department were reportedly desperately understaffed and additional nurses had to be brought in from the downtown Winnipeg hospital’s intensive care units, while managers also stepped in to cover.
Paramedics were not asked again to cover for the lack of nurses in the department, Shared Health confirmed Monday. (The hospital made that request of already stretched-thin paramedics during a particularly busy weekend last month.)
One HSC ER nurse said patients are inevitably waiting longer and are being neglected as a result of the understaffing.
A number of initiatives generated by conversations with staff have been introduced or are in the planning stages, the release said. They include additional home care resources on weekends to help patients return home after being discharged and creating a staffing pool of nurses with previous emergency and urgent care experience interested in picking up shifts.
The HSC is also looking at self-scheduling, so nurses have more say in when they work. On Friday, nine nurses enrolled in a four-week orientation program to work in the ER or urgent care will report for shifts at one of Winnipeg’s hospitals.
All local hubs saw a huge January to April increase in the volume of patients who left without being seen by a physician, according to Shared Health data obtained by the NDP through a freedom of information request.
HSC logged 1,097 adult patients leaving in April, compared to 862 in January. At the HSC children’s ER, 138 young patients left in April before being seen, compared to 46 in January.
At Grace Hospital, 245 left in April, compared to 168 in January. At the ER at St. Boniface, 519 left in April, compared to 290 in January.
On the bright side, three hospitals saw fewer patients give up and leave in April than the previous month.
In March, 1,098 patients left the adult ER at HSC, and 260 left the Grace; at Seven Oaks General Hospital urgent care centre, 297 left in April without being seen by a doctor, compared to 302 in March.
The information obtained by the NDP showed 2,877 patients left without being seen in April. The total number of patients who arrived at Winnipeg ERs and urgent care centres that month was 23,103 Shared Health said tonight.
The NDP blames the Progressive Conservative government for staffing problems it says are at the root of long ER waits.
“The PCs have really failed Manitobans when it comes to health care,” Opposition Leader Wab Kinew said Monday. Manitobans who go to the hospital should be able to expect that they’ll be seen and assessed, he said.
“We know that the staffing situation is what’s driving this. We can’t afford to lose any more folks.”
The first step the provincial government should take is showing more respect toward workers, said Kinew. That would include negotiating a contract with health-care support staff who’ve been without one for five years, he added.
Nurses, who’ve complained about burnout and mandatory over time, should have a better work-life balance and be able to directly swap shifts without having to go through a manager, the NDP leader said.
“We need to fix the situation.”
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.
Updated on Monday, July 4, 2022 8:53 PM CDT: Updates April numbers from Shared Health.