Manitoba

New numbers show rise in wait times at Winnipeg ERs, urgent care centres

Newly released numbers show wait times this July were worse at all but two of Winnipeg’s emergency rooms and urgent care centres when compared to the same time last year.

Tories point out wait times have improved compared to the NDP's last year in power

New numbers show patients waited an average of 5.67 hours at the urgent care centre at Concordia Hospital compared to 5.32 hours last year when it was still an emergency room. (Darren Bernhardt/CBC)

Newly released numbers show wait times this July were worse at all but two of Winnipeg's emergency rooms and urgent care centres when compared to the same time last year.

But the numbers show wait times are down at all facilities when compared to the 2015-2016 yearly average.

In a hastily organized press call Friday night, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority broke its silence and released wait time data to reporters who have been asking for days for the information.

The news comes two days after Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister told reporters Wednesday he wanted the numbers public and not withheld due to an election blackout that Liberals and bureaucrats say would have prevented the information from being published.

The numbers show that this past July, the 90th percentile wait time was 4.47 hours to be seen by a physician after being registered at the ER.

That number is a spike from 4.11 hours last July and encompasses all of the city's urgent care centres and emergency departments.

WRHA president Réal Cloutier said he couldn't speak to why there was an increase in wait times he provided reporters over the phone. (Lyza Sale/CBC)

The 90th percentile is the standard measuring stick used nationally for tracking ER wait time performance by health groups. It refers to the amount of time within which 90 per cent of the visitors to the emergency room were seen by a physician after registration at the front desk.

"There are improvements but there are some that lost ground," said Réal Cloutier, the CEO of the WRHA.

'I can't get into reasons why': WRHA CEO

Journalists had to sit on a call that lasted over 30 minutes Friday night while Cloutier read wait time numbers aloud for this June, July and last July.

The numbers show patients waited an average of 5.67 hours at the urgent care centre at Concordia Hospital compared to 5.32 hours last year when it was still an emergency room.

Concordia went from being an ER to an urgent care centre on June 3.

"I can't get into giving reasons why," Cloutier said when asked what was causing the increase.

"As you'd expect they're going through the changes and adjusting accordingly."

Cameron Friesen, the PC candidate for Morden-Winkler, who is Manitoba’s current health minister, said when the new data from the WRHA is compared to 2016 — the NDP’s last year in power — it shows wait times have substantially improved. (David Lipnowski/Canadian Press)

At St. Boniface Hospital's emergency room, wait times also grew. This time to 4.62 hours from 4.03 last year.

Grace, HSC have times go down

The Grace Hospital's ER saw wait times this July go down to 4.12 hours from 4.67 last year. In the adult emergency room at the Health Sciences Centre, the numbers were slightly down to a 4.47-hour wait compared to 4.50 last year.

But wait times were higher at Victoria General Hospital, which had its ER converted to an urgent care centre in October 2017.

The wait this July was 4.38 hours compared to 3.68 hours last year. Wait times at the HSC Children's Emergency Department also got worse this July. Kids had to wait 2.97 hours to get care compared to 2.55 hours last July.

System in chaos: NDP

Manitoba's NDP immediately jumped on the numbers and said they are proof the Pallister government's health care overhaul is making things worse and not better.

"His cuts have thrown the system into chaos and are making patient care worse: wait times are getting longer for every patient at Concordia, Seven Oaks, St. Boniface and Victoria Hospital," NDP spokeswoman Emily Coutts said in a statement.

NDP Leader Wab Kinew says he'll reverse health care cuts by the Pallister government. His spokesperson said Friday night the wait time numbers are proof the PC's health care overhaul isn't working. (Mike Fazio/CBC)

But Cameron Friesen, the PC candidate for Morden-Winkler, who is Manitoba's current health minister, said when the new data from the WRHA is compared to 2016 — the NDP's last year in power — it shows wait times have substantially improved.

25 per cent improvement: Tories

He said the latest data shows an overall improvement in median wait times for a fourth consecutive month across the WRHA and said ER wait times have improved by 25 per cent since the final days of the NDP government in 2016. The median is a type of average that represents a wait time where half of patients had shorter wait times than reported and half had longer wait times.

"Our plan for better health care sooner is working. The NDP has no plan for health care except to take Manitoba backwards to longer wait times for patients. We've made too much progress together to turn back now," he said, adding last year Manitoba was the only province to show an improvement in ER wait times.

PC Leader Brian Pallister speaks to reporters on the morning of August 30th in Winnipeg outside a seniors' home. (Austin Grabish/CBC)

A request for comment from the Manitoba Liberals, who didn't want the wait time numbers released for fears it would break blackout rules in place during an election period, wasn't immediately returned Friday night.

June 2019 to July 2019 comparison

The WRHA also provided reporters with a comparison from June to July of this year, again using the 90th percentile.

Overall at all locations, the average wait was 4.47 hours to get care, down from 4.80 in June. Here are those numbers broken down by location in average hours patients had to wait:

  • Concordia: 5.67 in July; 4.72 in June.
  • Grace: 4.12 in July; 4.63 in June.
  • HSC adult ER: 4.47 in July; 4.97 in June.
  • HSC children's ER: 2.97 in July; 3.55 in June.
  • Seven Oaks: 4.24 July; 5.88 in June.
  • St. Boniface ER: 4.62 July; 4.83 in June.
  • Victoria urgent care: 4.38 July; 4.67 in June.

About the Author

​Austin Grabish started reporting when he was young, landing his first byline when he was just 18. He joined CBC in 2016 after freelancing for several outlets. ​​In 2018, he was part of a team of CBC journalists who won the Ron Laidlaw Award for the corporation's extensive digital coverage on asylum seekers crossing into Canada. Email: austin.grabish@cbc.ca

with files from Jacques Marcoux

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