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Sturgeon Community Hospital patients face longest waits

Only 56 per cent of patients discharged in less than four hours

By: By Megan Sarrazin

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Jul 04, 2012 06:00 am

WAIT TIMES - Ambulance wait times at the Sturgeon Community Hospital have decreased recently but patients seeking emergency treatment are experiencing longer than average waits, according to a new report.
WAIT TIMES - Ambulance wait times at the Sturgeon Community Hospital have decreased recently but patients seeking emergency treatment are experiencing longer than average waits, according to a new report.
FILE PHOTO/St. Albert Gazette

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Patients seeking emergency medical care at the Sturgeon Community Hospital can expect a long wait, according to Alberta Health Services’ (AHS) fourth quarter performance report.

The hospital tied for last place out of the 82 suburban/rural hospitals in the province, with only 56 per cent of patients being discharged with an emergency department length of stay of under four hours.

“I think that 56 per cent will certainly get better with the amount of time and effort and front-line involvement,” said Carol Manson-McLeod, emergency director for the Edmonton zone. “The key is front-line involvement and physician involvement in order to make things better.”

The provincial average for hospitals in the suburban/rural category had 90 per cent of patients triaged, seen, assessed, treated and discharged in less than four hours.

Manson-McLeod said it is difficult to compare the Sturgeon Community Hospital to some of the other suburban/rural hospitals, since they serve smaller communities.

“If you think about St. Albert in general, it’s a community that’s grown quite significantly in the last 10 years, so you have to put it in that type of context as well,” she said.

AHS performance reports are conducted quarterly, with the most recent data collected between Jan. 1 and March 31, 2012.

The report details a provincial goal to have 80 per cent of patients discharged in less than four hours by March 2013. These goals will jump to 90 per cent in March 2015.

“I think many things have to fall in line for us to reach that target,” Manson-McLeod said. “I think it’s a stretch target and I think that we have to continually move our way towards that target.”

The Sturgeon Community Hospital also trails the provincial average in terms of emergency department length of stay for admitted patients.

The provincial average saw 43 per cent of patients admitted in less than eight hours, with only 27 per cent of patients at the Sturgeon Community Hospital being admitted in that time.

The provincial goal is to have 80 per cent of patients admitted in less than eight hours by March 2013.

“The system has been like this for a long time. It’s going to take a while to get it moving and as long as we’re moving in the right direction, that’s the key to me,” Manson-McLeod said.

The Sturgeon Community Hospital falls under the Edmonton zone, a region Manson-McLeod said is short of beds.

Although the government announced bed capacity would be increasing at some Edmonton zone hospitals, the Sturgeon Community Hospital does not have room to increase its bed capacity.

To curb wait times, Manson-McLeod said evaluation processes are underway to ensure staff is matching the demand and capacity by having enough staff on during peak hours.

There is potential that more staff could be added as a result of the findings, although this will not be known until the fall when the process is complete, she said.

Manson-McLeod said the hospital is also looking into sending some patients to outpatient clinics for things like cast checks to prevent them from congesting the emergency department.

“They’re looking at opportunities to move some of the work to outpatient clinics so that what the emergency department is truly dealing with is injuries and things that happened today,” she said.

Ambulance service can be affected by long emergency department wait times, although Manson-McLeod said significant improvements have been made in recent months.

“We’ve statistically significantly reduced the amount of time the ambulances are spending in the department,” she said, adding the average length of time is 80 minutes.

Up-to-the-minute wait times

At the beginning of the month, AHS released an emergency department wait times application allowing Android and iPhone users to compare wait times for area hospitals.

The times are updated every two minutes and estimate the time it takes from triage to when a doctor signs in to see them.

The Sturgeon Community Hospital has consistently sat at the middle of the pack, exceeded only by Edmonton’s busiest hospitals like the Royal Alexandra Hospital and the University of Alberta Hospital.

“Though the hospital is part of the Edmonton zone, it differs from the other Edmonton city hospitals in the zone,” said Shelly Willsey, AHS spokesperson. “The site and the bed base are smaller, which results in less ability to move patients and limits the flex capacity of the site.”

The Sturgeon Community Hospital also sees a higher volume of ambulatory or walk-in patients compared to the Royal Alexandra Hospital or University of Alberta Hospital.

Since the mobile application was launched in the Edmonton zone, roughly 6,000 downloads were made amongst iPhone users. Information for Android users is unavailable, Willsey said.

“We have 14,800 total downloads, and the app has been used 146,500 times,” she said.

The information is also available online and has been viewed more than 21,000 times, roughly 1,000 times per day since the launch of the site.


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