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This article was published 13/6/2012 (3423 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Ambulances continue to sit for long periods of time at Winnipeg hospitals waiting to unload patients.
The Opposition Conservatives, armed with statistics from a freedom of information request, said Wednesday the situation has got worse — after the province promised last year to fix the problem.
The average wait at a city hospital emergency room for ambulances bringing in patients was 71.36 minutes in the first four months of this year, up from just over 66 minutes in 2011.
The Selinger government would like to see that average wait time drop to 30 minutes.
"The government failed to keep the promise it made to fix this issue," Conservative health critic Myrna Driedger said Wednesday after raising the matter in the legislature. ""It's the worst it's been since we started tracking these numbers (when) the paramedics brought it forward as a big issue."
Last year, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority paid $529,064 in penalties to the city's paramedic service for prolonged ambulance waits at city hospitals.
Long waits to 'off-load' patients — a condition caused by overcrowded ERs — leads to fewer ambulances being available for service at any one time. Last year, according to figures obtained by the Conservatives, there were 56.5 hours when there were no ambulances available in Winnipeg. In the first three months of this year, there were nearly 22 hours when the city did not have an ambulance on the street.
"Patients can fall through the cracks in a situation like that," Driedger said.
Health Minister Theresa Oswald said the government is working "on multiple fronts" to reduce the amount of time it takes for ambulances to drop off patients at ERs.
It has built more clinics with longer operating hours so that patients with less serious medical issues are not clogging up emergency rooms. It has diverted ambulances carrying patients with less serious medical issues to the Misericordia Urgent Care Centre. It has added two ambulances to serve Winnipeg at peak times and it has stationed paramedics at the Main Street Project to look after minor injuries and prevent the need for an ambulance.
Later this month, a new unit will open at the Health Sciences Centre specifically to tackle congestion at the hospital's ER. The unit will deal with folks waiting for tests or who just require observation, Oswald said.
"We're very committed to bringing down these off-load times. We want these paramedics back out on the street as quickly as possible,"" the minister said.