Sudbury Regional Hospital Emergency Department Performance Worsening

In a development that is concerning for proper patient care Carol Mulligan of the Sudbury Star has published a story on a report made to the board of directors of Sudbury Regional Hospital about the hospital’s performance in relation to the provincial wait time strategy for emergency department rooms. She quotes David McNeil, vice-president of clinical programs and chief nursing officer at Sudbury Regional Hospital as stating that the emergency department has become one of the worst in Ontario.

Increased Wait Times

Eighty per cent of people who visit emergency are considered low acuity or less ill — so most are being seen within six or seven hours of being triaged in emergency. But for the 20% of high acuity patients, the wait can be much, much longer. The average wait time in the SRH emergency for seriously ill patients is now 7.9 hours, compared with the provincial average of 5.8 hours. For less acute patients, the wait time is 3.4 hours, versus the provincial 2.3 hours. The figures are for April, May and June of this year.

Emergency room wait times are measured in three ways. The first is the median wait time – the halfway point for patient waits. The second is average wait time. The third is the 90th percentile wait time – the point by which 90% of patients have been seen. It is in the last category that Sudbury Regional’s emergency wait times markedly increase against the provincial average. The 90% completed average for seriously ill patients is 18.4 hours, versus 11.3 hours for the provinces. For less acute patients, the 90% average is 6.7 hours, versus 4.4 for the rest of Ontario.

Shortage of Emergency Room Physicians

Long emergency waits are being caused by two main factors. The first is the shortage of beds to which patients admitted in emergency can be transferred. The second is the shortage of emergency room physicians. Despite recruitment efforts, the hospital is still short five emergency room doctors. This is an alarming situation that can only impact negatively on the capacity of the physician complement to meet the standard of care required of them. Negligence claims against emergency room physicians are amongst the most frequent brought against medical specialists.

Delay in Hospital Admission

David McNeil states that even if a full complement of emergency doctors were hired the hospital still has an inpatient bed capacity challenge. What that means is that the sickest patients are waiting the longest in the emergency department. That is because they often remain in emergency on stretchers awaiting transfer to a bed on a medical floor, a move that is often delayed because of the shortage of beds in the hospital.

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