Manitoba

As health-care overhaul winds down, median ER wait time hovers around 2 hours: WRHA

As the first phase of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority’s health-care overhaul winds down, the authority is shifting its focus to wait times in the city’s emergency rooms.

Health authority hopes to slash emergency room wait times nearly in half by 2021

Winnipeg Regional Health Authority CEO Réal Cloutier said staffing changes at Concordia and Seven Oaks hospitals likely affected wait times, along with confusion about where people should go. (CBC)

As the first phase of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority's health-care overhaul winds down, the authority is shifting its focus to wait times in the city's emergency rooms.

The last of the major scheduled changes was completed last month when intensive care services transitioned out of Seven Oaks General Hospital, said WRHA CEO Réal Cloutier.

Cloutier said the overhaul, which began in April 2017, included some of the largest changes undertaken by any health-care system in Canada in recent memory.

And while there were improvements in certain areas, Cloutier said emergency wait times are still lagging behind.

In September, the median wait time for emergency and urgent care across Winnipeg hospitals was 2.07 hours. Cloutier said the WRHA hopes to slash that number to meet the Canadian median of 1.2 hours by April 1, 2021.

"We have work to do," he said. "While we're still ahead of where we were when we started, we've lost some ground and we need to turn that around, and we plan to do that in the coming months."

Cloutier said staffing changes at Concordia and Seven Oaks hospitals likely affected wait times, along with confusion about where people should go.

Krista Williams, the health authority's chief nursing officer and chief health operations officer, said the primary focus for the last two years has been on transitioning to a new health-care system.

"Now, it's time to re-shift and focus on stabilization," she said. "That's our key priority moving forward."

Health-care update 'worrying': NDP

Uzoma Asagwara, the Manitoba NDP's health critic, called the high wait times "an indictment" of Premier Brian Pallister's health-care overhaul.

"Today's update from the WRHA was worrying. Wait times are up across the city, there are more than 130 fewer beds in our hospitals and nurse vacancies are skyrocketing," said Asagwara.

"This is an indictment of Mr. Pallister's health-care agenda and yet his government is continuing to make more cuts across the system."

While most of the major health-care changes are complete, the WRHA said there are a few still coming.

These changes include opening a mental health treatment centre at St. Boniface Hospital's emergency department over the next two to three months, and a similar treatment area at Victoria Hospital in 2021. The health authority said more resuscitation capacity is also scheduled to open at St. Boniface within a few weeks.

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