Health Sciences North has managed to reduce its wait times, but there remains room for improvement, said the hospital's vice-president of clinical programs, David McNeil.
In the summer months Health Sciences North managed to reduce its emergency department wait times below the provincial average.
So far in 2013, emergency department wait times for patients who were later admitted to hospital have hovered between 17 hours and 28 hours at their peak – in January when flu season was also at its peak. “That's a significant improvement from August of 2012 when we would have been at about 44 hours for the 90th percentile wait time,” said McNeil.
Wait times for patients who went to the emergency room, were treated and sent home, have run at around 6.5 to seven hours.
The hospital achieved the reduction in emergency room wait times despite a 10 per cent increase last year to the volume of patients who enter the department.
But Health Sciences North remains well above the province's target of an eight-hour wait time for people who visit the emergency department. No jurisdiction in the province, in fact, has yet met that target.
“There are jurisdictions and health systems throughout the world, including health systems in the U.S., that are meeting that target,” McNeil said.
In the United States, the jurisdictions that have maintained low emergency room wait times have a better continuum of service, according to McNeil. In other words, patients are making the transition to assisted-living or long-term care facilities more easily, and creating more available spaces in the emergency departments for those who require that level of care.
Health Sciences North has seen the greatest level of improvement by reducing acute length of stay by almost a day.
The hospital has also significantly reduced the number of alternate level of care patients – who occupy a hospital bed but do not require that high level of care.
McNeil said Health Sciences North currently has 68 alternate level of care patients. Even with the reductions to that number, the hospital would still like to reduce it by half. The patients are complex because they often cannot simply be sent home without a well-managed transition.
To help manage that transition and reduce the number further, Health Sciences North has hired transitional nurses to help the alternate level of care patients.
The wait times for a number of specific surgeries have remained high. Waits for neurosurgery, gynaecology and urology surgeries, for instance, are more than 25 per cent above target.