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Average wait time at IWK children’s hospital 6 hours: senior N.S. health officials

Click to play video: 'Nova Scotia officials respond to long IWK wait times'
Nova Scotia officials respond to long IWK wait times
Senior officials with Nova Scotia’s Health Department have provided some answers on the state of the province’s emergency health system. This comes after an appearance last week at a legislature committee left politicians frustrated with the lack of data. Skye Bryden-Blom reports – Nov 28, 2022

Senior officials with Nova Scotia’s Health Department have provided answers on the state of the province’s health system.

They were questioned last week during the Public Accounts committee meeting by Liberal MLA and Health and Wellness shadow minister Brendan Maguire.

Maguire called on the officials to release more information on ER wait times.

In a new letter from the Deputy Minister of Health, as well as the President and CEO of Nova Scotia Health, it was revealed the average wait for a child to see a doctor at the IWK was nearly six hours between Oct. 1 and Nov. 23.

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Maguire says the lengthy wait times being reported are concerning.

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“As a father of three children, it’s really scary,” he said. “I had a personal experience with one of my daughters and I can tell you one of the main reasons I wanted to ask those questions is we were there for over 16 hours and that’s a long time when a child or a youth is sick or hurt and scared.”

The data shows similar waits at the Dartmouth General Hospital and the QEII hospital.

Click to play video: 'Questions unanswered amid calls for action on Nova Scotia ER understaffing'
Questions unanswered amid calls for action on Nova Scotia ER understaffing

According to the IWK Emergency Department chief, the time it takes to see a doctor can vary depending on the type of case and even the time of day.

“I would say on average probably around four to six hours,” Emma Burns said. “But again that’s very anecdotal. I spoke to a colleague who started a 7 a.m. shift and she was still seeing families who had come in at 8 p.m. the night before. ”

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She adds ERs are tied up amid a busy season for respiratory illnesses including the flu, RSV, and COVID-19. Burns says kids are also coming in sicker than is typical for the ER.

Staffing shortages in hospitals are also continuing.

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“We have more patients per day than our department has ever seen in the history of us recording numbers in the emergency department at the IWK,” Burns said.

On average, Burns estimates, 10 per cent of patients will leave the emergency room without being seen by a doctor. She says work is being done to get a grip on the high volume of patients. That includes moving people around to ensure the sickest patients get treated first. They’re also using spaces like the orthopedics clinic at night to help with overflow.

Meanwhile, Maguire is calling on all political leaders to step up.

“Instead of saying, ‘You broke it and we’re going to fix it,’ it should be, ‘We’re going to build on things, we’re going to work together to do what’s right for Nova Scotians,'” Maguire said.

More than 120,000 Nova Scotians are on the waitlist for a family doctor.

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