Manitoba emergency room wait times worst in Canada: report

The St. Boniface Hospital Foundation wants to make upgrades to the Psychiatry McEwen Building. File / Global Winnipeg

WINNIPEG – Canadians are waiting far too long to be admitted to hospitals when they go to emergency rooms – and the problem is worst in Manitoba, according to a new report.

The Canadian Institute for Health Information report says one in 10 Canadians who goes to an emergency department and requires admission to a hospital has to wait 28 hours for a bed.

But in Manitoba, one in 10 patients in participating hospitals had to wait more than 38 hours for a bed.

Arlene Wilgosh, president and CEO of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, which participated in the report, said it’s working on the problem.

“We knew that our departments were needing to have improvement as far as length of stay,” she said at a news conference Thursday.

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There were eight emergency departments in Manitoba that participated in the study, which the institute estimates account for 45 per cent of the province’s emergency room visits.

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The median wait to be admitted at participating Manitoba hospitals was 12 hours, the report says; country-wide, it was 8.8 hours.

Although waits aren’t as long for those who are treated and discharged, the numbers are still worse in Manitoba than anywhere else in Canada.

Those with more serious problems were in hospital for a median 4.7 hours before discharge in Manitoba; across Canada, the median was 3.1 hours. For less serious cases, it took 2.9 hours until discharge in Manitoba, but only 1.6 hours across Canada.

The median is the middle number – half of the patients waited longer and half waited less time.

The wait times are well beyond what is recommended by the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians (CAEP).

The association issued a policy statement last fall calling for half of emergency department patients to be admitted within eight hours, and nine of 10 to be admitted within 12 hours.

Wilgosh said she receives daily reports on the number of people who wait for care in an emergency department for 24 hours or longer. Mondays and Tuesdays are busy and there are usually 20 to 40 cases, with the number dropping through the week to below 20, she said.

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There has been a 30 per cent drop in those waiting more than 24 hours, she said, but that’s not good enough, she added.

“Our target is zero.”

New quick care clinics and augmented home care resources have been brought in to help improve the situation, and the health authority is working with the province to develop more personal care home spaces, Wilgosh said.

“I am very optimistic that when you speak to us next January … that there will be a change,” she said.

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