Wait times at private walk-in clinics will be posted online as part of Manitoba health officials’ plans to reduce extreme waits in emergency rooms and urgent care centers.
The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, which already posts real-time wait lengths for ERs and urgent care, has started to post walk-in waits via a private company, Medimap, that relies on voluntary participation from private clinics. Wait times for clinics that have chosen to participate can be found at myrightcare.ca.
Dr. Joss Reimer, chief medical officer for the WRHA, and Health Sciences Center chief operating officer Dr. Shawn Young made the announcement Thursday.
It was a follow-up to previous announcements focused on keeping non-urgent patients out of ERs, where they’ll fall to the bottom of the priority list and have to wait the longest.
Reimer didn’t share any reduced-wait time targets that will serve as benchmarks for success for this effort, but she said if posting clinic wait times online saves hours in the ER for even one person, it will be worth it.
The difference it may make for individuals, she said, “could be massive.”
“Whether or not we see wait times shift, we know that it makes a major impact to that one person when they don’t have to wait 10 hours in the emergency room.”
A pay bump for nurses took effect last Friday. As a result, staffing levels at HSC and other health-care sites increased.
Reimer said two of the WRHA sites were fully staffed for the first time in a long time.
At HSC, Young said it’s going to take some time to know how the “super-premium” is affecting long-term staffing levels.
“We’re hoping this trend continues and gets even better with time,” he said.
Nurses receive an extra $8 per hour for every hour they work on weekends, which is often when the ER is the busiest.
Health officials have estimated, based on hospital triage data, that about 40 per cent of patients who show up to ERs do not have urgent medical needs and could potentially get faster care at a clinic or doctor’s office.
Over the past few months, HSC and the WRHA have made efforts to encourage Manitobans to seek care elsewhere when they don’t need emergency treatment. The WRHA posted an online listing of clinics, and extended hours at walk-in connected-care clinics in September.
“We have seen an increase in the number of people going to those clinics since we made that announcement, which is encouraging. We’re seeing people getting the care they need in a more efficient way,” Reimer said.
They acknowledged higher volumes of patients are sicker than in the past and directing people elsewhere won’t solve long ER wait times. Hospitals need to be properly staffed to admit patients more quickly from the ER.
The early arrival of the respiratory virus season has been a hindrance. The Children’s Hospital emergency department has doubled the rate of patients compared to last November — approximately 250 patient visits per week.
Young said children are becoming quite sick and the nine-bed pediatric intensive care unit has been stretched since the spring, he said.
“We’ve been, at times, close to 20 patients in pediatric ICU for those nine beds.”