Manitoba

Early results in health transformation 'promising,' authority says

So far, so good. That's the message leaders from the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority shared on Thursday in a progress update on the first three weeks of Phase 1 of a massive health-care overhaul in the city.

'Indications are that the plan is proceeding as we anticipated it would': Lori Lamont

So far, so good. That's the message leaders from the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority shared on Thursday in a progress update on the first three weeks of Phase 1 of a massive health-care overhaul in the city. 2:12

So far, so good.

That's the message leaders from the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority shared on Thursday in a progress update on the first three weeks of Phase 1 of a massive health-care overhaul in the city.

"It's probably too early to … declare success, but certainly the early indications are that the plan is proceeding as we anticipated it would, which is really quite promising," said Lori Lamont, vice president and chief of nursing and health with the authority.

Lori Lamont, vice president of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, says wait times at emergency rooms and urgent care centres are down 28 per cent across the board over this time last year. (CBC)
Earlier this month, the health authority embarked on the first phase of "Healing our Health System," a major revamp of Winnipeg health-care in an effort to consolidate and streamline services.

The changes have included the closure of the Misericordia urgent care centre and Victoria Hospital's emergency department, which was replaced with an urgent care centre, and the movement of acute care services out of the Victoria, to be replaced with transitional and subacute care.

Since the emergency room was replaced with an urgent care centre, the Victoria has seen an average of roughly 114 patients a day — up from the roughly 106 a day at the Misericordia urgent care centre — which Lamont called "promising."

"It shows us that people in south Winnipeg are appreciating having an urgent care in their neighbourhood and are using it to have their health-care needs met," she said.

Wait times at that centre have also dropped to 1.2 hours on average compared with two hours in October 2016 and 1.9 hours in September 2017, when it was still an emergency department.

Wait times at emergency rooms and urgent care centres across the board have gone down in the past three weeks, 13 per cent lower than last month and 28 per cent lower than this time last year.

The emergency department at Victoria Hospital in Winnipeg closed on Oct. 3, and was replaced by an urgent care centre. (Google Maps)

Length-of-patient stays in emergency departments have dropped to 11.5 hours between Oct. 4 and 24 this year from an overall median of 14.7 hours in October 2016.

"These are early days and preliminary results, but … we're pleased to see them and pleased to see the progress that we've made and continue to believe we are going in the right direction," Lamont said.

'More than skeptical': NDP health critic

Lamont said it's still "early days," and the health authority will continue to monitor results.

NDP health critic Andrew Swan said he's "more than skeptical" about the preliminary numbers.

"There are different ways to measure wait times in emergency rooms. We now know that this government appears to be using median times as opposed to average times. Any Grade 5 student will tell you the difference between those two measures and how that can change," he said.

He dismissed comparisons of wait times Victoria's urgent care centre to those at its former emergency department. 

Swan said he'll trust numbers from independent sources, including the Canadian Institute for Health Information, which reports on hospitals across the country.

"I think every Manitoban should be very, very suspicious about the measures this government is going to use to try to show that their cuts are actually resulting in shorter wait times. I take these numbers with a lot of suspicion," Swan said.

NDP health critic Andrew Swan said he's "more than skeptical" about early reports on Winnipeg's changing health-care system. (CBC)

5 patients transferred to ER from Vic daily

Since the Victoria Hospital ER closed, Lamont said, roughly five patients a day have had to be transferred to emergency departments at other hospitals from the Victoria's urgent care centre — and more like seven patients a day in the first week following the switch.

Each transfer is reviewed clinically and, Lamont said, so far there have been no "serious concerns."

​"Virtually all of [those patients] are walk-in. We recognize that we still need to get some of that information out about where to go for care," she said.

But Lamont says there has been no spike in critical incidents, and none of the incidents reported this month have been directly related to consolidation.

The Misericordia Health Centre has also seen a number of patients coming in hoping to be admitted to the now-closed urgent care centre, Lamont says, including just over a dozen in the past few days. Many of them were redirected to care in the neighbourhood, she added, but some were taken by cab to Health Sciences Centre.

"We would've hoped that this would've dropped off more quickly, but [it's] important that we address whatever lingering communication needs we may have," Lamont said.

"We know that … some people in that neighbourhood may be not easily reached through some of our traditional communication methods."

Other results of changes so far this month include:

  • 42 patients moved from acute care beds at Victoria Hospital to subacute or transitional beds in the centre.
  • 33 patients admitted to transitional care at River Ridge.
  • 42 patients transferred using a new central bed access system, which Lamont called a "one-stop shop" to make it easier for physicians to orchestrate transfers.

More changes to come

Karlee Blatz, senior labour relations counsel for the WRHA, said the authority has sent out all employment security notices for Phase 1.

Staffing changes at the Misericordia, Grace and Victoria hospitals have already been implemented, she said.

More changes for nurses and support staff at Health Sciences Centre will be in place by Nov. 17, and for support staff and nurses at St. Boniface Hospital by early December and January respectively.

Changes to staffing at Riverview and Deer Lodge centres are expected to be in place by Dec. 1, she said.

A new special needs behavioural unit is slated to be opened at Deer Lodge by the end of next month, and a geriatric rehabilitation unit from Riverview will be moved to Deer Lodge to free up more space for personal care home capacity at Riverview.

Priority Home, an intensive, short-term home care project, is set to launch in November. Lamont said the service will support people transitioning from the hospital back to their homes, as well as people who are already on home care but need a little more help.

With files from Sean Kavanagh