January 19, 2018
WRHA wait times improve despite difficult flu season
The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA) is crediting recent consolidation efforts for the region’s ability to manage an influx of lab-confirmed influenza cases that began in late December, while maintaining improved emergency department wait times.
“Our improved ability to work together as a system to assess, treat and accommodate patients quickly played an enormous role in maintaining our improvement over a similar timeframe last year, even with the impact of a difficult flu season,” said Lori Lamont, acting COO, vice president, nursing and health professions. “Changes related to consolidation allowed us to mobilize immediately to address the increased demands that influenza placed on emergency services and in-patient beds throughout the region. And the individual contributions of our front-line staff ensured that patients continued to receive excellent care.”
In order to accommodate flu patients admitted to hospital, Lamont noted that approximately 70 over-capacity beds were opened and another 68 beds normally used for surgical patients were temporarily repurposed. The region was able to retain most surgical slates and performed over 800 surgeries both this week and last. Of the 97 non-urgent elective surgeries that were postponed to create capacity for incoming patients, more than half of them have already been rebooked and the region continues to work with patients to reschedule the remaining procedures.
The WRHA maintained a median wait time of 1.6 hours in emergency departments for the month of December and the first half of January, an improvement from 2 to 2.3 hours during the 2017 flu season.
“While flu season remains in full swing, we are pleased that the changes implemented through the first phase of clinical consolidation meant wait times remained stable over the past few weeks despite a significant increase in patient volume,” added Lamont. “The region is now operating at full capacity and is no longer required to postpone elective surgeries. Patients can be assured that their postponed procedures will be rescheduled as quickly as possible.”
Another important factor credited with the region’s ability to manage a busy flu season without increased wait times, is the record low number of patients awaiting placement into personal care homes from hospital. At this time last year, there were approximately 78 patients in hospital awaiting placement into personal care homes.
“This week a total of nine people are waiting for placement into a personal care home from hospital. In my entire time with the region – this is the shortest that list has ever been,” said Lamont. “Not only is the list shorter, but the length of stay for those patients waiting, has also been shortened.”
Lamont attributed the improved access to personal care homes to a number of initiatives implemented by the WRHA last fall as part of Phase 1 of Healing our Health System, including:
- The Transitional Care Environment, which promotes recovery from illness or injury in a more home-like environment outside hospital;
- The Priority Home program, which helps patients who are medically stable return home with appropriate support more quickly; and
- Rapid Response Nursing, which allows medically-complex patients to return home safely from hospital with the necessary care to avoid readmission.
Together, those initiatives have served over 200 patients since their respective launches in October and November of 2017.
“These preliminary numbers are promising and reinforce the need to continue our efforts to make changes that will enable further improvement to wait times and timely access to important health services.”
Lamont indicated that more information about the progress and evaluation of consolidation efforts will be available later this month, including the findings of the interim report of the WRHA and the Centre for Health Innovation, which will inform the planning and implementation of the next phase of consolidation.