Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/11/2010 (3249 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A north Winnipeg population boom and a spike in the number of shooting and stabbing victims has contributed to a steady rise in the number of emergency room visits, according to new information obtained by the Free Press.
Data released through a Freedom of Information request reveal the number of patient visits at individual hospital ERs increased by as much as 27 per cent between January 2008 and August 2010. ER visits at the six hospitals varied month-to-month over the two-year period, but most sites experienced slow and steady growth.
Seven Oaks and Health Sciences Centre's adult emergency saw the biggest increases, with Seven Oaks seeing 27 per cent more patients and the HSC seeing 25 per cent more patients in 2010 than they did in early 2008.
Lori Lamont, Winnipeg Regional Health Authority vice-president and chief nursing officer, said Seven Oaks and Concordia both saw sizable jumps in patient visits due to a population increase from the number of new housing developments in north Winnipeg. She said publicity over the opening of the new Seven Oaks ER may have also attracted more patients.
HSC has seen a similar increase, Lamont said, in part due to the rising number of Winnipeggers wounded by gunfire or stabbings.
"I wouldn't necessarily characterize it as a significant increase. I think it's a steady and a continuing increase," Lamont said, noting she doesn't think the increase is alarming.
"We have seen an increase at the Health Sciences Centre, a more significant increase there, and certainly some of that is related to the number of crime-related traumas."
Lamont said the rise has not put a strain on city ERs, saying it breaks down to a manageable number of extra patient visits a day per ER. She said ERs have been doing a better job recruiting and retaining staff, and that the ER physician vacancy rate is near zero. Winnipeg ERs are short 6.5 per cent of their full-time nurses, though officials say that's a normal rate they'd like to see closer to four per cent.
"We just know we are seeing more gunshot wounds, more stabbing wounds, those kinds of things," Lamont said, noting the region doesn't have hard data on how many more cases of crime-related trauma HSC has seen.
Health officials don't know how many ER visits were unnecessary, or were for minor issues that could have been handled by a family doctor in the community. Lamont said a change in how triage cases are defined meant they couldn't compare admission data between 2008 and 2010.
However, she said, a portion of all ER visits are patients who have trouble accessing primary care or finding a family doctor outside of a hospital.
Earlier this year, a WRHA community health advisory council report said better access to primary care could ease the strain on ERs clogged with patients who don't have medical emergencies or whose illnesses could have been prevented in the first place.
In response, regional health officials are training family doctors to book more same-day appointments and are looking at ways to increase communication between family doctors and specialists to shorten the time it takes to get an appointment.
Lamont said Winnipeg is also looking at ways to increase lab technicians in ERs to speed up the turnaround time for tests that physicians need in order to make a diagnosis.
"I wouldn't characterize it as being a good thing," she said of the increasing number of ER visits.
"Certainly there are things, initiatives going on within our primary care system, within the region that are looking to try and address the needs of some of those people who might use emergency because they're having difficulty accessing primary care."
Average monthly ER visits in 2008 (January to August) and 2010 (January to August)
2008 — 2,369
2010 — 2,794
17.9 per cent increase
2008 — 2,276
2010 — 2,313
1.6 per cent increase
2008 — 3,631
2010 — 4,552
25.4 per cent increase
2008 — 2,989
2010 — 3,791
26.8 per cent increase
2008 — 3,435
2010 — 3,487
1.5 per cent increase
2008 — 2,328
2010 — 2,511
7.9 per cent increase
HSC Children's ER
2008 — 3,722
2010 — 3,985
7.1 per cent increase