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This article was published 10/10/2013 (2498 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Paramedics are waiting at city emergency rooms longer despite efforts by the province to free up ambulances more quickly, the Opposition Progressive Conservatives said today.
Tory Health Critic Cameron Friesen said off-load times — the time patients are admitted to hospital — has increased in the first half of 2013 from the year before. In 2012 ambulances and their crews waited on average 74.6 minutes to return to service. This year that wait time has risen to 78.2 minutes, Friesen said.
The PCs ask for the statistics four times a year through freedom of information requests.
"The situation is not improving," Cameron said. "Rather, the information suggests that the situation is getting worse."
Health Minister Theresa Oswald said the Tories have cherry-picked the numbers to create an inaccurate picture of emergency paramedic care.
"Debates that aren’t based on reality aren’t helpful to anybody," she said. "They can go as far to frighten seniors in the community or frighten moms and dads who have kids that might be injured and need an ambulance."
Oswald said the data indicates a downward trend in off-load times.
"What we are seeing in the presentation of the Opposition’s numbers today is a number in aggregate, but not showing you the trend of what is actually happening. What we see in the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority is a dramatic decline in her number of dollars that are being paid to the city for these off-load times." (See below).
Cameron said the documents provided to the Tories show that in 2012 paramedics waited almost 43,000 hours from time of arrival to being available again for duty. In the first six months of 2013 they waited 21,000 hours.
Cameron also said the documents show City of Winnipeg assessed $1.2 million in off-load delay fines to hospitals in 2012 and another $1,072,049 in the first eight months of 2013. The target is 60 minutes before a fine is assessed by the city.
"The fines are staying stubbornly high," Cameron said.
Oswald said what the data actually shows is that the rate of off-load times and billings, particularly in the summer months, going down. Summer is traditionally busier with more emergency medical services.
The worst hospitals for off-load times are the busiest—the Health Sciences Centre and the St. Boniface General Hospital.
The HSC has said it was adding four nurses to its emergency room in the next few months solely to speed ambulance patient drop-offs.
At St. Boniface, the emergency department was to use lounge chairs instead of stretchers, where feasible, to accommodate more patients.
The province is also encouraging Manitobans to use alternative medical services such as the Misericordia Urgent Care Centre and one of two new QuickCare Centres in the city rather than go to an ER.
In 2012, there were 100 hours when no ambulance was available for dispatch in Winnipeg.
That was up considerably from 2011, when the total was 56.5 hours.
So far in 2013, up to the end of August, no ambulance was available for 26.79 hours, according to the documents released by the Tories.
Updated on Thursday, October 10, 2013 at 1:48 PM CDT: Adds comments from Health Minister Oswald.
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