Published on February 23, 2012
Health and Community Services Minister Susan Sullivan (left) fields media questions at Lecture Theatre D in the Health Sciences Centre Wednesday morning as Eastern Health CEO Vickie Kaminski listens. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram
Published on February 23, 2012
Health Minister Susan Sullivan announces details at an event Wednesday in St. John’s of efforts to reduce wait times for patients in emergency rooms. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram
Health minister says announcement fulfils election promise
The provincial government is spending $5 million to make good on an election promise, and make things move more quickly in hospitals.
Wednesday morning at the Health Sciences Centre, Health Minister Susan Sullivan an-nounced cash to reduce wait times in emergency rooms and cut the backlog for joint-replacement surgeries.
The largest portion of the money will go into an “emergency department information system” for St. Clare’s Mercy Hospital and the Health Sciences Centre.
The system will monitor various times, such as how soon a patient is assessed after arriving before, how long a patient stays, and how satisfied they are when they leave.
“Every emergency room is different; it’s different just from the point of view of its physical setup,” Sullivan said.
“We need that baseline data in order to provide for the best case scenario in providing the most efficient care we possibly can.
“If you don’t measure, then you can’t improve.”
Money will also be put into hiring a consultant to figure out where the bottlenecks are in emergency rooms, and what’s causing the delays.
Over the next few years, the province hopes to assess all 13 high-volume “Category A” emergency rooms in the province.
But, while opposition politicians agreed that Wednesday’s announcement was a step in the right direction, both Liberals and NDP questioned the idea of doing further assessments.
“We’ve heard a lot of this, and most of the things that have been identified in the announcement this morning, we’ve already known about this,” Liberal Leader Dwight Ball said.
“You know what? We’ve done enough reviews, we’ve seen enough strategies. Let’s start some real good solid implementation of programs that will actually make a difference and reduce the wait times here,” Ball said.
NDP Leader Lorraine Michael echoed the sentiment. She said her party has been calling for a home care strategy for ages, which would indirectly ease burdens on emergency rooms by getting people out of hospital.
“With regard to the ER wait times, we had a report two years ago where Siemens Healthcare Canada identified that without a fully funded community based model of home care support, Eastern health won’t be successful in achieving length-of-stay targets,” Michael said. “They’ve been promising us now for three or four years that we’re going to see a long term care and home care strategy.”
The government will also be putting $1.4 million into reducing joint replacement wait times. The lion’s share of that money will go to an additional 60 hip and knee replacement surgeries in 2012 and 2013 to cut through the current waitlist.
Newfoundland and Labrador lags behind national standards; only 67 per cent of knee replacement surgeries happened within the 182 day benchmark in 2010. Only 75 per cent of hip replacements happened within the benchmark timeframe.
But Sullivan, and Eastern Health CEO Vickie Kaminski said they’re already seeing some results especially on emergency room issues .
Wednesday morning officials showed reporters a “fast track” area in the Health Sciences emergency room, where they quickly deal with patients that have less severe problems.
“In the fast track area, low-urgency patients are seen by either a nurse practitioner or a physician to reduce emergency department overcrowding,” Kaminski said.
Sullivan said measures they’ve already put in place have led a 50 per cent drop in the number of patients who leave without being seen — which is seen as a measure of dissatisfaction.