The chief of emergency medicine at Eastern Health says putting more nurse practitioners in hospitals won't help reduce the wait times patients are dealing with.
On Thursday, the health authority said nurses will start using the HealthLine next week to follow-up with patients who leave the emergency room without being seen by a physician to ensure they are getting the care they need.
Patients would be rated on a scale of one to five - one being the sickest and most urgent and five being the least sick — and anyone who fell into the number three category and leaves an ER without seeing a doctor should expect a phone call.
Debbie Forward, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Nurses' Union, said earlier this week that putting more nurse practitioners in hospitals would help alleviate wait times because they would be able to see less-severe cases, cutting down on the number of people waiting to see a doctor.
However, Dr. Scott Wilson, regional clinical chief for emergency medicine and paramedicine at Eastern Health, said this isn't the solution to the situation.
"Nurse practitioners are a benefit, but they really don't deal with this level three patient — they deal with the lower acuity patient. So it's really not a fix for this particular problem," Wilson said.
"The [solution to the] problem is to make beds available inside the emergency department so that patients can be seen, and the way you fix that problem is getting patients out of the department where they are admitted and upstairs [to other departments]," Wilson said.
"That continues to be the number one reason why patients wait."
Wilson said the follow-up call is something he's been pushing for to ensure people aren't getting sicker.
"We already have cases of people leaving and coming back with more severity in their illness," he said.
"There have been patients who have died, and so we need to avoid those circumstances in the future."
The HealthLine follow-up call is a pilot project for Eastern Health, and if it proves successful, it may be introduced across the province.