Published online at GlobalTVEdmonton.com on March 7, 2011.
Linda Hoang, Global News: Monday, March 7, 2011
Emergency in-patient numbers have decreased: province
Alberta Health officials announced Monday new numbers indicating the government’s plan to reduce long wait times at hospital emergency rooms is working.
Health Minister Gene Zwozdesky says the emergency in-patient data shows that number of people waiting to be moved from an emergency room bed to other hospital beds in Edmonton, Calgary and Red Deer hospitals have dropped by 55% since September.
However despite that “dramatic” drop, actual wait times for emergency care have remained relatively the same across the province.
“We’re talking about a very significant reduction in the number of people who are waiting to go from an emergency room bed into an acute care bed elsewhere in the hospital, thus freeing up space for additional people coming into emergency who need that particular bed,” Zowzdesky said at the Royal Alexandra Hospital.
“We’ve got a ways to go but at least the trend is going in the right direction,” he said.
Emergency in-patient (EIP) data reflects the number of patients waiting in emergency departments for an in-patient bed after having been seen, assessed and admitted.
“The number of EIPs have dropped very dramatically from last fall through to the end of February. In some cases we have seen reductions in the EIPs as high as 70%. That is absolutely huge.”
Overall in Edmonton, numbers show that there’s been an average EIP reduction of about 42%. In Calgary there’s been a 68% drop while Red Deer is seeing a 55% drop.
Zwozdesky says the downward trend means the situation in emergency departments is improving.
He credits the trend to a government plan last fall which added more hospital beds and the transfer of seniors from acute care hospital beds to long-term care beds.
However, despite the lower EIP numbers, overall patient length of stay numbers haven’t met the province’s projected deadlines.
Alberta Health Services had said that by March of this year, 70% of patients would be seen, assessed, and admitted within four hours and 45% of patients would be out of emergency within eight hours.
New statistics indicate that those length of stay percentage projections are not being met by most hospitals in the province, including here in Edmonton, where only the Misericordia Hospital was able to hit the target before the province’s March deadline.
Dr. Chris Eagle, acting CEO of Alberta Health Services, says that numbers haven’t been met yet because the different aspects affecting length of stay times aren’t as easy to improve as EIP numbers are.
“To fix the EIPs has been a very crisp thing to do. To get the length of stay under control we have to transform the entire health system,” Eagle said.
“We have to break it down in the chunks and we have to do that across our entire system to markedly improve our length of stay times.”