Some wait times shorter outside city: Eastern Health

Barb Sweet bsweet@thetelegram.com
Published on January 28, 2011
Vickie Kaminski, president and CEO of Eastern Health, speaks with Dave Murphy, president of the Conception Bay Area Chamber of Commerce Thursday.
Keith Gosse/The Telegram

Patients may routinely flood into St. John’s for speciality medical appointments, but Eastern Health has started advising metro dwellers to go outside the overpass for services with shorter wait times around the re-

gion.

Some services are only available in St. John’s, but other services — magnetic resonance imaging, CT scans, routine ultrasounds and some nuclear medicine — can be accessed faster in various facilities around the region while the waits are backlogged in St. John’s.

“If you think about it, there’s no hesitation to say to somebody from Carbonear they are driving to St. John’s for a specialist appointment, but we have hesitated to say go out there for a CT scan,” Eastern Health CEO Vickie Kaminski said following a speech to the Conception Bay Area Chamber of Commerce Thursday.

“So we’re not forcing anybody, but we know for elective procedures, our list is long and the wait is long in the city.”

Eastern Health will soon post on its website a comparison of wait times. Going outside the city to facilities such as in Clarenville and Carbonear is voluntary.

“The fact is we advise many of our patients of shorter wait times outside St. John’s and many still prefer to wait,” Kaminski told the chamber.

As examples, Kaminski said one patient told her he would have had a five-month wait in St. John’s for a non-emergency ultrasound and he received one in Clarenville in 3.5 weeks.

A non-urgent CT scan in Burin is five days’ wait, while the same test can take an average of 87 days’ wait at Health Sciences Centre in St. John’s.

An ultrasound, non urgent, can be had in Clarenville in 34 days, whereas a patient seeking the same in St. John’s would have to wait 145 days.

“We have provided information on wait times to community physicians and are encouraging everyone to ask the question: where in the system of Eastern Health can you get the service you need on a quicker basis and make use of that service?” Kaminski said.

She said the same number of staff is needed to maintain certain services, whether there is a large population or a small one ,but wait times vary across the province.

“You can have your hip or knee replaced outside of St. John’s sooner in some circumstances. We need to shore up our resources here, but at same time use all resources across the province,” Kaminski said.

“Really,    our message is Eastern Health is a conglomerate of services across a large area. It’s not St. Clare’s or Health Sciences or the Waterford. It’s lots and lots of different programs and services. And we have to make use of all of them. We can’t put more new into one place if we have another area that is underutilized.”

She said the authority is also keeping an eye on how referring people outside the city affects wait times in those communities, and said she doesn’t expect a backlash.

“So far, I think they would be happier to know that they are going to be able to keep the service there because sometimes you get physicians or technicians who aren’t busy and they get bored and they are thinking, ‘Where else can I go?’ So we would like to make sure we use those resources, keep people there, keep them well informed, keep them up to date. So it’s better for that rural community as well,” Kaminski said.

Within metro, Eastern Health is also promoting short wait times for blood services at the Major’s Path clinic, 15-20 minutes compared to 40 minutes at hospital sites. And, she noted, it has free parking. But she acknowledged the wait time may balance out once people get in the habit of going there.

Meanwhile, Kaminski said the province hasn’t yet seen much change in recruitment as a result of the province’s salary settlement with doctors, but she said Atlantic parity will eventually show results.

“This time next year we’ll see success in small pockets and two or three years out we will have had bigger success,” she said.

bsweet@thetelegram.com