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New ER protocols cap hectic week

New protocols set in place by Alberta Health Services (AHS) last week are aimed at reducing emergency room wait times and providing faster treatment for patients during “peak pressure” periods.

New protocols set in place by Alberta Health Services (AHS) last week are aimed at reducing emergency room wait times and providing faster treatment for patients during “peak pressure” periods.

Clinical leaders from across the province met Friday to develop the protocols, which build on current emergency department protocols by setting new thresholds that help ensure staff have back-up beds and resources to quickly ease ER pressures.

According to the plan, patients will be moved out of emergency or hospital beds when:

• The percentage of patients being treated in an emergency department (ED) while awaiting admission to a hospital bed exceeds 35 per cent of the available ED care beds

• The ED is more than 110 per cent full

• The hospital is 100 per cent full

• More than five patients in any ED have been waiting more than eight hours for a hospital bed.

• There are no additional beds in an ED to treat patients arriving with the most critical injuries or illnesses.

• There are seven or fewer EMS units in Edmonton or Calgary available to transport patients to hospital.

In addition, AHS said it will open 49 beds in Edmonton and 32 in Calgary to support the new protocols, in addition to the 279 new beds announced earlier this year.

Dr. Daniel Hryciuk, an emergency room physician at the Sturgeon Community Hospital, said the plan included some goals that he and staff have been trying to put forward for many years.

“Whether they’ll live up to those goals or not I don’t know,” he told the Gazette.

The protocols were announced just one day after an emergency healthcare debate was held in the legislature, a request put forward by Liberal MLA for Edmonton-Centre Laurie Blakeman.

The debate, which lasted just over an hour, was the second time this year that the opposition has called for an emergency debate on healthcare.

“It’s been a concern for a few weeks and it sort of came to a head last week and I thought it was a good debate,” said MLA for St. Albert, Ken Allred, who voted in favour of holding the debate.

Allred said he thought Dr. Raj Sherman, a former Tory MLA who was suspended from caucus on Monday, raised some constructive points on how to improve the healthcare system.

Sherman landed himself in hot water last week when, in an email sent to Premier Ed Stelmach, as well as numerous physicians and MLAs, he blamed the Alberta government for the province-wide crisis in emergency room wait times.

He later criticized former Health Minister Ron Liepert, saying he had been “rude and offensive” to healthcare staff.

While Sherman, who also served as the parliamentary secretary to Health Minister Gene Zwozdesky, apologized to Stelmach, he has yet to retract his comments about Liepert.

During a press conference Tuesday, Stelmach said it was Sherman’s failure to retract these comments, among other things, which had resulted in his suspension.

“Dr. Sherman was not suspended from caucus for his advocacy efforts or for speaking out on behalf of his patients or his constituents,” said Stelmach.

“He was provided with some steps that he needed to take, including retracting statements that he made about a colleague that were simply not true.”

Yesterday the province announced that Fred Horne, MLA for Edmonton-Rutherford, had been appointed the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Health.