Manitoba

Wait times up at Winnipeg's Grace Hospital despite new ER

Despite an effort to slash wait times by opening a new emergency department at Grace Hospital, patients are lingering longer in the waiting areas than before the expansion.

Average patient wait in July at new emergency room was 18 per cent higher than in July 2017

The new emergency room at Grace Hospital is five times bigger than the old one, but it hasn't resulted in a reduction in patient wait times. (CBC)

Despite an effort to slash wait times by opening a new emergency department at Winnipeg's Grace Hospital, patients are lingering in the waiting areas longer than they did before the expansion. 

A recent wait time report from the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority says the median wait time in July was 1.93 hours, which is an 18 per cent jump from the same month a year earlier.

That number is also up from June of this year — the first full month the new emergency room was open — when patients waited an average of 1.73 hours before they were admitted, once again longer than the median July 2017 wait of 1.63 hours.

Though the $43.8-million build was supposed to reduce wait times at an emergency room five times larger than its predecessor, a WRHA official said she isn't startled by the trend in the opposite direction.

"We did anticipate with the opening of the new emergency department that there would be increase in volume, so an increase in the number of patients," said Krista Williams, the health authority's chief health operations officer.

Staffing challenges

In turn, the hospital re-evaluated workflow and tried to increase staffing, but its efficiency was hampered by unfilled vacancies.

The hospital will need to make continuous adjustments to reduce wait times, Williams said. 

"We're not going to lessen our efforts right now," she said. "We need to do everything aggressively to do what we can, because we know how important wait times are to the public."

She's optimistic the hospital will not only slash the average wait, but help the province reach the national wait time average of 1.1 hours.

Other emergency departments in Winnipeg also experienced higher wait times in July than during the same month last year.

Concordia's average wait of 2.1 hours in July was a 24 per cent increase from 2017, while Seven Oaks' 1.48 hour wait was an increase of 38 per cent from the same month last year.

The average wait at Health Sciences Centre's adult ER, though, was down three per cent in July from the median wait a year earlier, the data shows.

Overall, the median wait time at Winnipeg hospitals was 1.6 hours in July 2018, 11 per cent higher than in July 2017.

The findings come as the regional health authority undergoes a significant overhaul to slay wait times and find efficiencies. By summer 2019, half of the city's six emergency rooms will have been closed or converted to a different purpose.

"The changes in consolidation are looking at all the changes we can make in the entire system to support quality and safety, but also improving the wait times for patients," Williams said.

In April, the WRHA said wait times had dropped by an average of 16 per cent overall from the previous year.

Darlene Jackson, president of the Manitoba Nurses Union, doesn't believe the health-care overhaul is working because wait times are rising at a hospital that recently underwent an expansion. (Radio-Canada)

The median wait, however, increased steadily over the winter months after the first phase of the health-care overhaul was introduced last October. Health officials blamed the flu for the month-by-month uptick.

Darlene Jackson, president of the Manitoba Nurses Union, said she can't see how the overhaul is working when Grace patients are waiting longer.

"It has not, in any way, improved efficiency," she said.

Jackson wouldn't decry the new building expansion as a waste of money, but she says the province should invite nurses to devise a solution that improves wait times.

"We very much want to meet at the table."

About the Author

Ian Froese

Reporter

Ian Froese reports from the Manitoba Legislature for CBC Manitoba. He previously wrote for the Brandon Sun and the Carillon in Steinbach. Story idea? Email ian.froese@cbc.ca.

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