WINNIPEG – People are simply giving up waiting at local emergency rooms and leaving before seeing a doctor, according to Winnipeg Regional Health Authority numbers.
Figures gathered by the health authority show one in 10 patients walked away from the waiting room last year.
“It happened to me a couple times, I said forget it,” said Clarence Fontaine. “I have a broken shoulder blade and I said I’ll come back tomorrow.”
Tory opposition critics dug up the numbers and say they prove Manitoba’s NDP government is failing to fix the health care system.
“Sometimes you just can’t get past the nurses; sometimes if there’s 50 people there and you’re not top priority, you could sit there for 12 to 15 hours,” Crystal Merton said outside the Health Sciences Centre emergency room on Tuesday.
Last year, 10 per cent of patients — 28,000 people — needed to see a doctor but didn’t. That’s almost double the number who walked out a decade ago.
In 2008, Brian Sinclair died in Health Sciences Centre’s ER during a 34-hour wait for help.
“How many more people need to suffer before she gets moving on this?” health critic Cameron Friesen asked during question period at the Manitoba legislature.
“If they elect to leave without being seen, there is a followup call that happens through health links,” acting health minister Theresa Oswald replied.
But a health expert at the University of Manitoba said change needs to happen within the health care system, or even more patients will walk out of ERs before getting help.
“Just because we’ve done this for X amount of years doesn’t necessarily mean we have to keep doing that on a moving forward basis,” said Malcolm Doupe, a professor in the department of community health sciences.
The province said it is making changes by opening the Mental Health Crisis Response Centre in June and several Quick Care Clinics for people to see a doctor faster.
“We are certainly seeing an impact as a result of those programs that are in place,” said Oswald.
Last month, eight per cent of ER patients left without seeing a doctor.
In February, Bonnie Guagliardo, 68, went home after waiting for six hours in an ER and died the next day.
The Conservatives are asking for an inquest into her death.