Patients demand answers about paramedic wait times

A Winnipeg woman is demanding answers about paramedic wait times after her mother waited for hours in excruciating pain in a hospital emergency room with a paramedic by her side.

A Winnipeg woman is demanding answers about paramedic wait times after her mother waited for hours in excruciating pain in a hospital emergency room with a paramedic by her side.

Kim Segal says several paramedics were waiting with patients when she and her mother were in an emergency room recently.

"It seems cruel to have people who are in pain and in agony waiting, having to wait for such a long time to be seen by physicians," she said.

CBC News reported on Tuesday that paramedics are having to wait longer to transfer patients to hospital staff.

Segal said there's a cost to patients, as well as taxpayers, and not everyone at the ER seemed in distress.

"There were a lot of people who came in on ambulance that walked right up off the stretcher, and just wandered around in the waiting rooms," she said.

Real Cloutier, chief operating officer with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, said paramedics aren't just waiting — they are doing their job making sure patients are safe until hospitals have the capacity to take them in.

"I think the simplistic way to deal with it is to say, we're going to charge you for every hour that you exceed a certain threshold. But that doesn't fix the problem," he said.

Cloutier said part of the problem is emergency rooms visits are up 13 per cent over the last five years.

He said more is being done to divert non-urgent patients to other care facilities, like quick care clinics.

But Manitoba's health critic said the NDP government has dropped the ball when it comes to ambulances waiting at hospitals.

Progressive Conservative Myrna Driedger said the fees were supposed to encourage the province to fix the problem.

She said she's alarmed it's worse.

"They're failing patients. And the warning bells have been going off by the paramedics for a number of years, and the government is ignoring those warning bells," Driedger said.