The president of Winnipeg’s paramedics union said the backlog in the city’s hospital emergency rooms could be reduced through a variety of existing and new initiatives.
Chris Broughton, president of Local 911, said the backlog at emergency rooms is often the result of patients who don’t belong there.
"Often patients are sent to hospital ERs even when other forms of health care might be more appropriate," Broughton told the civic property and community services committee this morning.
The committee was reviewing an administrative report which updated the state of negotiations with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority on measures to reduce ambulance off-load times – the length of time paramedics spent at hospital until the patient they are transporting is admitted.
The city has been critical of the backlog at hospital ERs because it prevents paramedics from getting back onto the road.
The administrative report, which did not go into detail because of on-going negotiations with the WRHA, said the city is exploring four strategies, including charging the WRHA higher penalty fees and other alternatives.
Broughton said in 2012, Winnipeg ambulances made about 58,000 trips to the city’s hospital emergency rooms but only 13 per cent of those patients were in critical condition.
Broughton encouraged civic officials to expand the fledgling community paramedic program. Paramedic crews are stationed at the Main Street Project, he said, where they treat the homeless and have reduced the trips to hospital ERs.
"When we reduce those transports to the ERs coupled with other programs regional health authorities are introducing, we are seeing an improved state of off-load delays at hospitals."
Broughton said the ER backlog could be reduced further if paramedics were given the discretion to take patients with non-critical injuries to medical facilities other than hospitals for treatment, including the Pan Am Clinic, the Misericordia Urgent Care Centre and other similar facilities.
Broughton said the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service should increase its community education program with more emphasis on injury prevention measures.
Aldo Santin is a veteran newspaper reporter who first carried a pen and notepad in 1978 and joined the Winnipeg Free Press in 1986, where he has covered a variety of beats and specialty areas including education, aboriginal issues, urban and downtown development. Santin has been covering city hall since 2013.