Jewish General Hospital ER 'victim of its own success'

Administrators at Montreal’s Jewish General Hospital are wondering how long they can maintain their new emergency room’s reputation for efficiency.

Emergency room saw record 85,000 patients last year

The Jewish General Hospital opened its new ER in 2014. (Jewish General Hospital)

Administrators at Montreal's Jewish General Hospital are wondering how long they can maintain their new emergency room's reputation for efficiency, which drew in a record 85,000 patients last year.

Unveiled in 2014, the ER was billed as the largest and most sophisticated of any hospital in Quebec.

That reputation, and the results it's getting, are leading patients from around Montreal and beyond to opt for the Jewish General's emergency services over hospitals closer to home, making it the busiest ER in Quebec.

Of the 85,000 patients who passed through its ER last year, 60 per cent came from off the Island of Montreal. Of its patients from Montreal, 46 per cent hailed from outside the hospital's territory.

Performance getting noticed

"We are unique in that way — when you look at the visit for other emergency rooms, we are the only for whom the majority of the patients come from outside our territory," said Dr. Louise Miner, the director of professional services at the  CIUSSS du Centre-Ouest-de-l'Île-de-Montréal, the regional health agency which administers the hospital. 

This is one of 20 custom-made cubicles with a recliner in the ER's rapid-assessment zone. (CBC)
Miner attributed that trend to the hospital's noted performance record.

"We are victims of our own success. Patients come because they know — either through word of mouth or through the press or through looking at data available online — that we take charge of our patients more quickly," she said. "They get seen, and they leave the emergency room more quickly, despite the fact we're seeing 85,000 of them."

"Patients will drive further to get that performance."

Doctor on triage team

The addition of a doctor to the hospital's ER triage team is a key innovation that is helping cut wait times at the hospital, Miner said.

The Jewish General is the only hospital in Quebec with a doctor performing triage.

That physician is able to identify non-emergency cases and redirect them, which helps lighten the load on ER staff and frees them to see patients more quickly.

"On any given day, we redirect 60 to 70 patients," Miner said.

"The doctor can see also things that are sometimes very quick and take care of them right away."

Miner said if more Quebec hospitals took similar steps, it would ease the strain now being felt by the Jewish General's emergency staff.

"If it happens throughout the system in many emergency rooms, then people won't feel compelled to have to come to a particular hospital that may be far from home."

with files from the CBC's Lauren McCallum