Ottawa

Temporary unit at Civic hospital to help avoid 'level zero'

A temporary 40-bed unit attached to the emergency department of The Ottawa Hospital's Civic campus is expected to help alleviate the strain on the city's paramedics, who are routinely stuck for hours transferring patients to hospital staff.

40-bed unit will allow paramedics to offload patients more quickly

Part of the east parking lot at The Ottawa Hospital's Civic campus was blocked off Monday as construction began on the new temporary unit. (Michel Aspirot/CBC)

A temporary 40-bed unit attached to the emergency department of The Ottawa Hospital's Civic campus is expected to help alleviate the strain on the city's paramedics, who are routinely stuck for hours transferring patients to hospital staff.

That keeps them from answering other emergencies, and at times there isn't a single available ambulance to respond to a 911 call. The situation is known as "level zero," and paramedics, politicians and patients' families have warned it could become deadly.

"This unit will allow us to create capacity within the hospital, and ensure patients receive the care they need," The Ottawa Hospital wrote in a news release Monday.

It will also lead to patients spending less time in the ER before being admitted, the hospital said.

Hospital officials have released few details about what the new unit will look like, but it will be in the east parking lot, bordering Carling and Melrose avenues.

50,000 hours spent transferring patients

Earlier this month, Ottawa city councillors expressed their frustration over the amount of time paramedics spend tied up offloading patients.

Last year alone, the city hit level zero more than 500 times and paramedics spent 50,000 hours waiting to transfer patients to hospital staff.

The Ottawa, Queensway Carleton and Montfort hospitals have all asked the province to fund nurses who can help care for patients when emergency beds aren't immediately available.

It's not clear whether the temporary unit at the Civic campus is a result of that funding, nor is its cost.

The hospital said the new unit is set to be completed by the end of the year.

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