COVID infections are driving up ER wait times in Winnipeg, says WRHA CEO

A rise in COVID-19 infections in Winnipeg is driving up wait times for hospital emergency and urgent care departments, the Winnipeg health region chief said – contradicting government claims, officials said. infected patients seek care for other reasons.

In an email sent Friday to employees of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, WRHA President and CEO Mike Nader said Winnipeg hospitals are seeing a “higher than normal” increase. COVID admissions as well as sicker patients than at the start of the pandemic.

It’s driving up wait times in emergency departments and urgent care departments to what he described as “worrying” levels, especially for less ill patients, he said. in the email.

Patients are also staying longer in emergency and urgent care departments while waiting for COVID tests, he added.

Hospital staff sick time is now at historic highs, he said, in part because some staff are off work with symptoms or confirmed cases of COVID-19.

“COVID continues to spread throughout the community. This is causing a higher than normal increase in the number of COVID-positive patients and creating additional pressure,” Nader told staff via email Friday evening.

“We are now seeing patients, who avoided seeking treatment initially during the pandemic, are generally sicker when presented. As a result, they require increasingly longer medical care.”

Previous attempts to redirect patients from Winnipeg’s emergency departments and intensive care units to less busy care facilities were significantly impacted by weather events, Nader said, which also added to pressure on the system.

Nader’s statement contradicts repeated statements by provincial Chief Public Health Officer Brent Roussin and Premier Heather Stefanson, who have described COVID hospitalizations as having little impact on hospitals.

“A lot of our hospitalizations are accidental — because of something else, but they just happen to have COVID,” Stefanson said April 19.

Nader told reporters on Monday that the increase in the number of COVID patients is impacting hospitals, given the isolation measures required for infectious patients, the personal protective equipment that staff must wear and the ability to transfer these patients to other units.

“The challenges we face with COVID patients in the hospital are that it severely disrupts our workflow,” Nader said.

Health Minister Audrey Gordon said on Monday she was concerned about long wait times in emergency departments, but said there were no plans to change public health orders to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

“I’m very concerned about the wait times and the number of people who have to wait a long time,” Gordon told reporters at the Manitoba Legislative Building, calling eight to 10 ER wait times unacceptable. time.

“I insist they fix it.”

Gordon pushed back against the idea that a rise in COVID-19 infections is a factor in long wait times. She said a number of factors have contributed to the problem facing Winnipeg hospitals.

‘Hospital Floor’ Ideas

She said she met with Roussin on Monday and received no requests to change public health orders. She suggested that hospitals are responsible for coming up with ideas to reduce wait times.

“Sometimes they say the best ideas come from the hospital floor,” Gordon said.

Nader said in his email that he visited a number of hospitals to better understand the situation on the ground.

Paramedics are being asked to take fewer sick patients to urgent care centers rather than emergency departments to reduce pressure. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

He said changes are being made to reduce wait times. Ambulances are being asked to send fewer sick patients to urgent care facilities rather than emergency departments, he said.

Dr. Shawn Young, CEO of the Health Sciences Center, told reporters via Zoom on Monday that this decision will hopefully redirect dozens of patients and will be done in a safe and calculated way.

Additionally, COVID tests are being administered to newcomers to urgent and urgent care departments and the health region is changing how it transfers patients to other regions and manages COVID patients sent home with new ones. oxygen.

“Whatever challenges we may face, there is no doubt that the pandemic has frankly made it exponentially more difficult to focus on identifying and implementing the opportunities to address them,” Nader said in his e -mail.

Neither Nader nor Young explicitly called on the province to reinstate public health orders to reduce pressure on emergency departments.

“I don’t think anything can solve this problem,” Nader told reporters on Monday.

He said admissions for all patients had increased by 16-21% in recent weeks.

Comments are closed.