Out-of-hospital emergency visits soar as ERs try to keep up with demand from above

Gina Griffiths, a nurse practitioner at Saint John’s Hospital, N.B., spoke to Canadian Nurses Association magazine about the overburdened emergency rooms at some hospitals. “There’s not a lot of time for that, but one…

Out-of-hospital emergency visits soar as ERs try to keep up with demand from above

Gina Griffiths, a nurse practitioner at Saint John’s Hospital, N.B., spoke to Canadian Nurses Association magazine about the overburdened emergency rooms at some hospitals. “There’s not a lot of time for that, but one of the difficulties is they’re treating everyone, and that’s really affecting the administrative staff,” she said.

At Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA), which serves Fort Whyte and Elbow Park, overcrowding is a major concern. Dr. William Leach, CEO of the WRHA, admitted that the system has had “major challenges this summer.”

The number of cases in the Manitoba Health Information System (MHI) reported between July and August increased seven-fold, almost tripling, according to CBC News. “This number included those who went to hospital emergency rooms from outpatient clinics, urgent care clinics and walk-in clinics. It was not a diagnosis of nor treatment for heat illness, which can include cramps, headaches, nausea and a dry or hot complexion,” CBC reports.

The WRHA raised concerns about doctors treating such an abnormally high number of new cases, but noted that, as seen in past years, there may be a spike in cases because of the hot weather. Several doctors told CBC that the spike in temperature and frequency of exposure will lead to high numbers of patients who are sick and in need of immediate care. And the problem has also been exacerbated because doctors are running behind in their schedules as they have to take time off for their own vacations.

Dr. Richard Stowe, chair of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority said that it is too early to say what the effects of the ER crunch will be, but confirmed that they are expecting a greater number of ER patients in the coming weeks.

A spokesperson for Health Canada stressed that Canada’s very large emergency rooms have the capability to treat patients who come in even in peak times. “Since emergency departments in Canada are generally equipped to treat most patients, our system does not have capacity to accept large numbers of patients who have greater complex or acute diseases, or for which care is not appropriate for other services,” Brian Glyn Williams said.

Read the full Canadian Nurses Association magazine article here.

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