Technology & Science

ER wait times focus of expert symposium

Health-care experts from across Canada and from Britain are meeting in Halifax to learn about strategies to reduce wait times, as concerns about long waits in emergency departments continue to make headlines.

Health-care experts from across Canada and from Britain are meeting in Halifax to learn about strategies to reduce wait times, as concerns about long waits in emergency departments continue to make headlines.

Earlier this month, 34-year-old Shayne Hay checked himself into emergency in Edmonton, telling staff he was suicidal. He wrote a suicide note and hanged himself with a strap on his backpack 12 hours later, after not having seen anyone for care.

Shortly after the death, Alberta MLA Dr. Raj Sherman, an emergency room physician, said he could no longer support his government's health policy. He was suspended from the Tory caucus and now sits as an Independent.

On Thursday and Friday, experts attending the Nova Scotia Emergency Department Effectiveness Symposium were hearing about strategies to ease overcrowding and shorten waits at emergency rooms.

The symposium aims to gain a common understanding of overcrowding in emergency departments across Canada and internationally, examine solutions and develop plans to meet present and future health-care needs. 

The approaches include:

  • U.K.'s four-hour rule, which states patients need to be seen within four hours.
  • Pay-for-performance projects such as the one used by St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver to cut waits in half.
  • Full capacity protocols — pushing patients to other parts of the hospital when the emergency department becomes too full.
  • Better use of information technology such as electronic health records and remote monitoring of patients through wireless technology to increase efficiency.

The two-day symposium ends Friday.