WINNIPEG – Staffing shortages in Winnipeg’s health care systems continue to drive up wait times at hospitals, but the organization responsible for overseeing health care in the city hopes an online tool can help ease the burden on emergency rooms.
The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority provides real-time information on wait times at participating walk-in clinics. The organization already provides this information to its emergency services and urgent care centers.
Wait times have increased this season as the province deals with COVID-19, seasonal flu and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV.
Some doctors at the health authority say the new tool won’t solve longer wait times at hospitals, but it could help people with less urgent needs get care faster.
Almost half of patients who go to hospitals for help can get proper care elsewhere, said Dr Joss Reimer, the authority’s chief medical officer.
“We need our doctors and our nurses and other health care providers to make sure they are looking after the people who are in the most acute situations. The difference for that person who could get care faster at one of the private clinics or one of our walk-in clinics could be huge,” she said.
Doctors Manitoba, which represents some 4,000 doctors and medical students, warned that hospitals risk being overwhelmed.
Winnipeg Children’s Hospital has seen an unprecedented number of children seek treatment for respiratory viruses at this time of year.
So far this month, the hospital has seen three times the normal number of children testing positive for the seasonal fly, and the system is under strain.
Dr. Shawn Young, chief operating officer of the Health Sciences Center, said many patients who present to the children’s hospital are “very sick”.
“A lot of that has been attributed to the fact that we haven’t had a lot of immunity over the past few years with everyone in isolation and wearing masks,” he said.
“It’s an early spike for us. We’re seeing it across the country, and it’s creating a lot of increased demands on children’s hospitals.
Doctors say the other contributing factor to high wait times is staff shortages in all areas of the health care system.
“It’s not just one area, it’s the whole system…staffing is at the root of it. And if we can fix the staffing, we’ll fix the flow,” Young said.
He added that the hope is that staffing levels will improve, as will the efficiency of care.
Doctors Manitoba said Thursday that the province’s doctor shortage has reached an all-time high.
The organization said Manitoba would need 405 more doctors to be on par with the Canadian average of 246 doctors per 100,000 population.
“The doctor shortage is affecting every family in Manitoba, whether you’re trying to find a family doctor, waiting to see a specialist, worrying about overwhelmed emergency rooms, or stuck in the backlog of surgeries and tests,” chair Dr. Candace Bradshaw said in a statement. .
In an effort to increase staffing, Manitoba’s Progressive Conservative government recently introduced bonuses for nurses who work weekends.
Reimer said it’s too early to tell what impact this has had, but heard from some facilities that they were fully staffed for the first time in a long time over the weekend.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on November 24, 2022.
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