March 5, 2015 4:30 pm
Updated: March 5, 2015 9:00 pm

Winnipeg ER delays could mean some patients wait at home

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WINNIPEG — Patients with minor ailments who call for an ambulance could be asked to wait at home until there’s room for them in a hospital ER.

That’s one of four options for reducing ambulance off-load times laid out in a Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service report to city hall released Thursday.

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The city already charges the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority a fee anytime an ambulance waits longer than 60 minutes at a hospital emergency room to drop off a patient. In 2014, the city billed the health authority $1,657,305.

But the fire paramedic service says discussions with the WRHA in late 2014 resulted in “four new strategies to reduce off-load delays.”

They include: charging the WRHA an even higher fee for delays; finding ways to move ambulances more quickly at ERs where delays occur; and moving “minor” patients to ERs that are less busy.

The fourth option is potentially the most controversial: leaving “minor” ambulance patients to wait in their homes “with appropriate care and monitoring until the receiving (ER) is able to accommodate them.”

Fire Chief John Lane discussed the “virtual waiting room” plan at a city committee in January: the details released Thursday are to be presented to the city’s Protection and Community Services Committee Monday.

The report says in 2014 there were no ambulances in “available” status for an average 4.05 minutes per day, and that off-load delays affected 10,919 patients.

Manitoba’s opposition Progessive Conservative party released figures in January showing ambulances waited an average of 78 minutes to off-load patients at Winnipeg hospitals, up from 75 minutes in 2013, 74 minutes in 2012 and 66 minutes in 2011.

© 2015 Shaw Media

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