Kitchener's Grand River Hospital hopes the addition of three new doctors will help offset lengthy emergency room wait times at the hospital, where the 10 per cent of patients who wait the longest can expect to wait up to six hours to see a physician, which is twice the provincial average.
"The work we have to do now is speed up care for people with minor complaints," Grand River Hospital President and CEO Malcolm Maxwell told The Morning Edition host Craig Norris Monday.
Maxwell said the three new doctors will help address the situation by bolstering the hospital's current emergency room staff, which is supposed to have a complement of seven doctors every day.
Hospital administrators found they would have the largest spike in wait times when the roster was short by at least one doctor.
The new additions mean "we have the schedule filled probably 95, 96 per cent of the time and we think that will help significantly," said Maxwell.
The new doctors are expected to start work this week, he confirmed.
Maxwell said the biggest challenge health authorities face in reducing wait times is keeping beds open so that patients can move through the emergency room quickly.
"We've made the most progress on the most seriously ill patients," he said.
Maxwell said over the last three years, the hospital has managed to reduce the number of so-called bed blockers, or patients with no acute medical needs, from taking up 100 beds to about 40 to 50 on an average day.
"That gives us a lot more capacity to admit patients so that the [emergency department] is not filled with patients waiting for access to the hospital," he said.
Maxwell said the public can also help reduce wait times at hospitals by regularly consulting with their family doctors.
"People do need to take some responsibility for managing their health with their family doctor," he said. "There's pretty strong evidence to show if we maintain active care with our family physicians the amount of use of hospital goes down."