Saskatchewan emergency room wait times continue to rise

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WATCH: The Sask. government has set numerous goals for reducing emergency room wait times, but the lines keep getting longer at hospitals across the province – May 15, 2019

Despite numerous goals being set to reduce emergency room wait times, they continue to rise throughout Saskatchewan.

Health Minister Jim Reiter said lengthy ER wait times are a nationwide issue, but the province is looking at finding a way to meet targets that have been missed.

“Obviously we need to do more in a number of different areas because the wait times are still too long,” Reiter said.

The goal of achieving zero ER wait times by 2017 was scrapped when it became apparent that it would not be achieved. After that, the revised goal was a 60 per cent wait time reduction in 2019.

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Opposition Leader Ryan Meili said the province continues to move the goal posts.

“The goal in 2017 was zero wait times. You just walk in and you’d see someone right away. Then they downgraded that to 60 per cent decrease in wait times by 2019, then 35 per cent in 2019 because they knew they weren’t going to hit 60. Now their goal is some reduction,” Meili said.

Wait times for various services in Saskatchewan. Saskatchewan Health Ministry

“Obviously we didn’t meet the targets, in this case, so we’re going to retrench and take a harder look on how the Connected Care Strategy’s working and our government’s been about targets. We haven’t been scared to set them,” Reiter said.

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The Connected Care Strategy focuses on referring people to community clinics when appropriate, if they come to an emergency room with an ailment that does not require emergent care.

Reiter said health officials told him 42 per cent of ER visits are for non-emergent issues or of a lesser emergent nature.

The health minister also linked ER challenges to increasing drug issues and a growing population.

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Meili, who practiced medicine full time as a family physician prior to entering politics, said the ministry does not know the reality of working in an ER.

“Most of the time you’ve got emergency doctors starting their shift with 50 of 50 beds already full; people admitted to hospital that don’t have a room upstairs,” Meili said.

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“You need to fix it with better availability of beds on the floor as well so people can actually be where they should be getting the care they deserve and not blocking up the emergency room, which is what’s happening now.”

Reiter said the province has increased the number of acute care beds by 10 per cent.

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