Though 10 of the city’s health indicators rank worse than national averages according to new data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority would like locals to focus on the good.
Of 32 indicators monitored by CIHI during the 2018-19 fiscal year, the WRHA scored at par or above average in 22 categories.
The region also had top results in Canada in four areas, including "ambulatory care sensitive conditions" (i.e. sending patients to hospital who ought to be there) and "worsened depressive mood in long-term care" (meaning the percentage of residents whose depression symptoms worsened in care was low).
"We need to celebrate our successes. We have seen some successes, and it’s not me who creates that: it’s our front-line staff who need to be recognized for the successes that we have achieved," said Krista Williams, WRHA chief nursing officer and chief health operations officer.
The WRHA was below average in 10 fields, including some not entirely within its control, Williams said.
When it comes to life expectancy at birth or at age 65, as well as avoidable deaths from preventable or treatable causes, the WRHA ranked below national averages.
Williams said health-care providers can’t improve those outcomes on their own, as better social services are required to help Manitobans improve their quality of life.
While the WRHA was vocal about two of its goals — getting emergency department wait times in line or better than the national average by 2021, and getting nursing staff vacancy rates to 10 per cent or less — Williams wouldn’t commit to timelines for improving on all of CIHI’s indicators.
"Health systems are complex. There’s a million variables that affect them, and so I don’t want to put a timeline on them because it wouldn’t be the appropriate thing to do. But what I can say is, I believe that we can improve these," Williams said, adding, "It’s not something... that can be done in a day or a week."
In terms of nursing staff, the WRHA said its vacancy rate at Winnipeg hospitals (including Health Sciences Centre, which is now under the umbrella of Shared Health) was 15.7 per cent as of Nov. 17. The nursing vacancy rate at all Winnipeg emergency departments and urgent care centres was slightly higher at 17.2 per cent from the same date.
CIHI’s data dump also provided updated emergency department wait-time numbers for across the country, which showed worsened or stable waits in nearly every province or territory except Yukon, where waits decreased by 5.6 per cent in 2018-19.
Length of stay in emergency departments was found to be worst in Quebec, and second worst in Manitoba.
Nationally, emergency department wait time numbers went up about 22 per cent across the board to an average of 3.9 hours.
Manitoba (as well as Saskatchewan and Ontario) clocked wait-time numbers similar to last year. CIHI’s data set ended March 31, however, well before Concordia and Seven Oaks hospitals’ emergency rooms were converted to urgent care centres in June and July, slowing waits further during the transition period.
The WRHA’s emergency department wait times have worsened this calendar year, Williams acknowledged, and the latest monthly set for October (also released Thursday) showed little improvement.
Median waits went up to two hours at all Winnipeg hospitals in October from 2.07 hours in September.
Ninetieth-percentile waits (the time nine out of 10 patients wait for service) were 5.02 hours on average, down from 5.33 hours in September, and up almost an hour since October 2018.
"We have struggled with our wait times, I’m going to be honest with that," Williams said. "But we have the teams that are focused to make improvements and I am confident over the next several months that we are going to meet our target in 2021, and achieve or exceed the Canadian average for (emergency department) wait times."
Posted: 28/11/2019 12:00 AM
There was plenty of good news for the Pallister government this week with the release of new Winnipeg emergency room wait-time statistics.
(factBox)However, the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) data only includes wait times until March 31, 2019, so the real test of whether the province’s reforms are working won’t come for months, after the effects of the ER closures at Concordia and Seven Oaks hospitals are felt.
Health Minister Cameron Friesen chose to highlight Manitoba’s strong suits in the CIHI report.
"Even in the midst of significant system change, our wait times remain stable throughout the year. I think that’s a huge area of strength for Manitoba," he said, later acknowledging targets are set and will be met for every metric tracked by CIHI.
NDP health critic Uzoma Asagwara said Manitoba would do well to focus on its own backyard, rather than comparing itself with Canadian averages.
"Focus on having the absolute best outcomes in this country," Asagwara said. "And focus on making sure that our long-term health outcomes in our communities are positive and sustainable."
Jessica Botelho-Urbanski covers the Manitoba Legislature for the Winnipeg Free Press.