Campaign to reduce wait times at Moncton ER not working

A new campaign at the Moncton Hospital aimed at reducing the wait times in the emergency department isn't producing the results doctors expected.

Doctor says about 25 per cent of the patients at Moncton Hospital emergency room could be treated elsewhere

Dr. Serge Melanson said a new website aimed at reducing the wait times at the Moncton Hospital emergency room hasn't worked. (Michel Nogue/Radio-Canada)

A new campaign at the Moncton Hospital aimed at reducing the wait times in the emergency department isn't producing the results doctors expected.

Dr. Serge Melanson, the Moncton Hospital chief of staff and an emergency room physician, was hoping a new interactive website would reduce emergency room visits by about a quarter, or by 12,000 to 14,000 a year.

"Unfortunately, we haven't seen any significant impact yet," Melanson said of the campaign that began in April 2017.

"Based on our statistics we have estimated anywhere from 20 to 25 per cent of patients coming to our department ... could be seen in an area outside the ER department," Melanson said.

Myths about health care

The website has had about 6,000 visits.

"Although our stats overall haven't changed from this year, compared to last, the traffic itself on the site would suggest that it is a tool that's being heavily used," Melanson said.

He is hopeful that more education and awareness will redirect would-be emergency room patients to after-hours clinics, pharmacies and family doctors.

Dr. Serge Melanson, chief of staff of the Moncton Hospital and emergency room physician says the campaign to encourage people with non-emergencies to seek care elsewhere has not reduced wait time as expected. 9:20

He said the website is debunking many of the "myths and misconceptions" around health care services.

"For example, some people are under the impression that by going to an after-hours clinic you have to have a family doctor that's affiliated with that clinic and that's not the case at all — people are free to go to any clinic they choose."

Melanson said another myth is that only certain family doctors have access to advanced diagnostic imaging such as MRIs.

"So our website goes a long way at breaking down some of these myths and helping people understand that all of this care could be accessed through either their  family doctor, after-hours clinic and in some instances pharmacists as well."

Mental health information 

Melanson said the website, Why Wait?, continues to be improved. He hopes a new section for people with mental health problems will be added soon. 

"It's not uncommon to see a dozen or so patients per day arriving among the many that we see — primarily with mental health issues," he said.

The hospital is working on projects to promote services available to them in the community, so they won't have to wait several hours in the emergency room.

And with the cold and flu season in full swing, Melanson is reminding people that it is usually not the type of illness that requires a visit to the emergency room.

Historically, our communities in this province have relied very heavily on the ER departments for health care and we just need to change people's thinking a bit.- Serge Melanson, Moncton Hospital

"Unless people have many other medical conditions and are frail, for example, influenza, colds, things like this can easily be seen at their own family doctors offices or in an after-hours clinic or in some cases perhaps even their pharmacist."

​Shorter waits, better care

Melanson said the problem won't be solved overnight.

"Historically, our communities in this province have relied very heavily on the ER departments for health care and we just need to change people's thinking a bit," he said.

"We need to get that 20 per cent of people to reconsider before they get into their automobile and drive to the ER department that there are other options."

Congestion in the emergency room and throughout the hospital has been a long-term problem at the Moncton Hospital. (CBC)

He said reducing the number of people in the emergency room would not only reduce wait times but also improve patient care.

"It would also give the staff in the ER department an opportunity to be caring for those who are sick in a more timely fashion because when we're dealing with many, many people to care for it's difficult to split yourself to many tasks."

with files from Information Morning Moncton