Capacity plan for Emergency ward remains on hold

A plan to move patients out of emergency and into other hospital wards or community care facilities hasn’t yet had to be used in Red Deer.

A plan to move patients out of emergency and into other hospital wards or community care facilities hasn’t yet had to be used in Red Deer.

The provincial plan came into effect on Dec. 20 as a way to ensure patients get the timely care they need.

Under the Alberta Health Services protocols, patients must be moved to other facilities when the percentage of patients in emergency exceeds 110 per cent, more than five patients have been waiting more than eight hours for a hospital bed and there are no beds left in emergency to treat those critically ill or injured.

“Everyone who has come in has been seen in the appropriate time frame,” said Sylvia Barron, director of emergency and critical care at the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre. “It’s really hard to assess how things are going. We haven’t enacted the need to put into play the overcapacity plan.”

In the past, Red Deer patients have waited a median average of 9.1 hours before being admitted to hospital, compared to 4.6 hours in Lethbridge, 4.4 in Medicine Hat, 4.0 in Fort McMurray and 7.3 in Grande Prairie. The median average means half the patients waited longer than 9.1 hours in Red Deer and half had shorter waits.

Up-to-date numbers for the current median average aren’t yet available.

Barron said they want to be able to have admitted patients in a hospital bed within eight hours and to have those who haven’t been admitted treated and released within four hours.

Patients entering the emergency unit are assessed using the Canadian Triage and Acuity Scale, with level one being the highest need of care to level five.

Level one means a person needs a doctor immediately, with level two meaning a person needs a doctor in 15 minutes and down from there. Barron said they have been meeting those time limits as well.

However, Barron admits this is not the peak season at the Red Deer hospital. The busiest times for the hospital are July and August, with the start of flu season in the fall also keeping the hospital busy. She said some pressure has been taken off the hospital with the opening of the Extendicare Michener Hill, which has freed up hospital beds, allowing patients to move from emergency into hospital beds more easily.

Red Deer Regional has a little more than 50 stretchers and lounge chairs available within the emergency area.

Barron said they do expect to see a slight surge in patients on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. However, she said it’s hard to say when the protocols could come into effect.

Alberta Health Services administrators will meet on Jan. 14 in Edmonton to talk about how the new protocols have been going.

sobrien@www.reddeeradvocate.com

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