Some of Winnipeg’s patients who are sick enough to need to be admitted to hospital are waiting more than a day in an emergency room for a bed to open up in another ward, according to data from Shared Health.
It’s been a constant battle for years and one that has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Data released by Shared Health from May 4 show the average total wait time for patients who end up being admitted, from triage and registration to being placed in a medicine bed, was 22.1 hours at the Grace, nearly 29 hours at Health Sciences Centre and a whopping 31.5 hours at St. Boniface.
“As the numbers presented are averages, some patients will unfortunately wait longer periods of time for admission – some significantly so – while others may have shorter waits,” a spokesperson from Shared Health said.
When the numbers are broken down even further, Shared Health said the waits include anywhere from 11 to 17 hours to undergo triage and registration at an emergency department and to be seen by a doctor, before it is determined the patient needs to be admitted.
The rest of the time is spent waiting for a bed to open up in another area of the hospital before the person can be moved out of the emergency ward.
“These numbers are a snapshot in time and will change – often significantly – from day to day and even hour to hour due to a number of factors, including patient volumes, patient acuity levels, medicine bed availability and staffing,” the spokesperson said.
One doctor previously told Global News the hospitals remain under a lot of strain and the lengthy wait times are concerning.
“It’s absolutely terrifying,” Dr. Philippe Lagace-Wiens said.
“It brings up some of these memories from patients that have passed away in emergency rooms waiting for care.”
The long wait times come on the heels of recent data released by Shared Health that showed nearly 25 per cent of patients who attended HSC in March left without seeing a doctor at all.
“It brings up concerns that these patients may, may, in fact, go back home and have a critical event, a heart attack that leads to a very severe illness or even death,” Lagace-Wiens said. “So each one of these that leaves is a potential tragedy.”
Shared Health said there are a number of contributing factors leading to the long wait times, and it is working to try to alleviate the patient flow bottleneck.
Those efforts include expanding a pilot project that places a physician in the triage area to manage and provide care for those waiting to be seen, with a particular focus on higher-acuity patients, Shared Health said.
A spokesperson said Shared Health is also working on improving lab turnaround time for patients who require admission.
“We expect these initiatives will have some success in reducing wait times in the months ahead,” the spokesperson said.
“We also continue to work to recruit and retain nursing staff at all sites.”