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ER not the place for mildly ill children: HSC

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Caregivers are urged to take children with mild illness to a walk-in clinic or family doctor instead of a busy hospital emergency room as cases of RSV among young children are on the rise.

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Caregivers are urged to take children with mild illness to a walk-in clinic or family doctor instead of a busy hospital emergency room as cases of RSV among young children are on the rise.

The Health Sciences Centre chief operating officer and the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority’s chief medical officer of health held a news conference Thursday to release the ER wait times for the month of September and discuss alternatives to going to emergency.

The HSC Children’s emergency department had an average of 139.5 patients per day in September, up nearly 11 per cent year-over-year, Dr. Shawn Young said. Of those patients, nearly half had low-acuity concerns that could have been appropriately treated by a primary care provider or at a walk-in clinic.

Children with mild illnesses should be taken to a walk-in clinic or family doctor instead of a busy hospital emergency room. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press files)

“We are focusing a little bit of our attention to Children’s Hospital,” Young said. It has had “quite an uptick” in young patients with RSV — respiratory syncytial virus — that infects the lungs and breathing passages and can cause breathing problems.

“We’ve had quite a few presentations to our emergency rooms and our pediatric intensive care all throughout the summer and into the fall,” Young said.

“We are worried. Fall is typically when we see even more. More preparation is being done to help support those kids in need and also to be able to support families and children that are not as sick… to make sure we’ve got good options for families and children to be assessed in a timely manner.”

Dr. Joss Reimer, the WRHA chief medical officer, said they’re trying to remind people other locations can provide appropriate care, often with a shorter wait.

Those needing less-than-urgent care aren’t having an impact on actual emergent cases, she noted.

“It does have a major impact for those individuals waiting in the emergency department when they could get care somewhere else,” said Reimer. Before showing up at an ER and having a long wait, she urged those with less-pressing health problems to visit MyRightCare.ca and explore alternatives so they don’t have to wait when they don’t have to.

The WRHA announced in September that all five Walk-In Connected Care Clinics in Winnipeg would open evenings and weekends starting in November.

It plans to ramp up a public education campaign that will provide guidance for parents on where to take a sick child as well as information on when a visit to an emergency department is required.

The moves are part of broader efforts to improve patient flow at Winnipeg hospitals in response to long wait times in emergency departments and urgent care centres.

Overall median wait times for Winnipeg’s four emergency departments and three urgent care centres were 3.08 hours in September, a nine-minute improvement from the previous month. However, the 90th percentile wait for September — the longest wait for nine out of 10 patients — was 9.1 hours, a 36-minute increase from August.

The median length of stay for patients in emergency or urgent care who are waiting to be admitted to an inpatient unit was 22.28 hours in September, up from 20.38 hours in August.

Dr. Joss Reimer, the WRHA chief medical officer, says they’re trying to remind people other locations can provide appropriate care, often with a shorter wait. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press files)

The number of daily visits to emergency and urgent care decreased for the first time since the spring to an average of 773.2 in September, down from 807 patient visits per day in August.

The number of patients who left without being seen held steady for a third consecutive month at 16.5 per cent. At HSC’s adult ER, it was 27.7 per cent in September, a slight improvement from 29.9 per cent in August.

Young said they continue to work on ways to improve patient flow throughout the health-care system but it will take time.

“I’ve been a front-line physician for over 20 years in the acute care system,” the doctor said. “None of us has been prepared to deal with the challenges we are currently seeing.”

“There continue to be challenges across the health system,” said Reimer, who also thanked staff for continuing to provide “quality, compassionate care to clients.” That includes management and executive staff with nursing credentials who are stepping up to fill hundreds of shifts where the needs are the greatest, Reimer said.

“The whole team is stepping up.”

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.

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Updated on Thursday, October 27, 2022 7:42 PM CDT: typo fixed

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