New tool focuses on emergency departments

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If you’ve ever wondered how the Sturgeon Community Hospital compares to other hospitals, those questions are now answered.

A new interactive tool has been launched which provides an in-depth analysis on how the top 16 busiest hospitals are providing care.

Andrew Neuner, CEO of the Health Quality Council of Alberta (HQCA) says the tool was designed to create transparency in emergency hospital care.

“It really helps Albertans see what’s going on in the system and creates trust and confidence for Albertans that what they’re looking at is an accurate reflection of Alberta health,” he explains.

People can view wait times, length of hospital stay, patient experiences with staff along with more than a dozen other topics of interest. Each page has a feedback option where people can add their own thoughts and ideas.

The tool, called FOCUS on Emergency Departments, allows people to compare hospitals according to their population. The tool is funded and developed by the Health Quality Council of Alberta and is designed to promote information access to the general public.

The data has been collected over the past five years and will be updated every 90 days.

In medium-sized urban areas, the tool shows that Sturgeon hospital has the highest wait times for resuscitation, emergent and urgent care. On average, people waited between one to two hours to see a doctor.

In comparison the hospitals in Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and Red Deer waited under an hour before seeing a doctor. Information was not available yet for the emergency hospitals in Fort McMurray and Grande Prairie.

Neuner says just because an individual has a longer waiting time, doesn’t necessarily mean they have poorer care at the hospital.

Depending on how the patient is treated once admitted can make the experience either a positive or negative one. For example, a simple introduction from hospital staff can make a patient feel more cared for, he says.

Pat Hethrington was admitted into emergency at Sturgeon hospital after having a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) in June 2016. The nurse in triage immediately determined Hethrington was having a mini stroke, and she was ushered to a hospital bed.

Hethrington says she remembers feeling cared for, and says both doctors and nurses had introduced themselves.

“They were wonderful. They let me know what they were doing; they calmed me down because I was freaking out. I was really impressed,” she says.

When she learned about the tool, Hethrington says it sparked her interest.

“For sure I’ll look at this more, out of curiosity if anything,” she laughs. “It’ll be interesting to know and compare.”

The tool shows that Sturgeon hospital has the highest rate among medium-sized urban emergency hospitals of introductions, with 86.5 per cent of patients reporting that their doctors had introduced themselves in the July to Sept. 2016 quarter.

Patients also rated their care at 83 out of 100 per cent from July to Sept. 2016, the highest rate among medium-sized urban hospitals.

While Hethrington had a positive experience, one local says hers was different.

“Standing in line at the triage, I was in line for maybe about two hours,” says Jennifer Derksen, who was admitted to emergency in December.

Derksen went to emergency after receiving a dog bite. Despite the long wait time, she says that her stay at the hospital was a positive one overall.

“They were constantly checking on me, they were really good,” she says.

When she learned of the tool, Derksen became more concerned over potential increased waiting times. She says she worries that the tool could drive more people to the hospitals who aren’t local.

“We’re a community of approximately 60,000 people here, we have one choice of hospital. Unless you have the means and transportation to get into Edmonton, which I don’t, we’ve got one choice.”

Neuner says he’s hoping the tool will create conversations, which will hopefully lead to positive change.

“What we didn’t want to do is create something to express an opinion or judge, we just wanted to create something that provided transparency, easy to use, easy to understand and that it’s through the power of information that we can start new kinds of conversations.”

Neuner says more hospitals could be added to the interactive tool in the future. To visit the website, go to http://focus.hqca.ca/.

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Dayla Lahring

Dayla Lahring joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2017. She writes about business, health, general news and features. She also contributes photographs.