After-hours clinics cut emergency ward use: study

EDMONTON — A study by the University of Alberta suggests after-hours medical clinics can reduce demands on stressed hospital emergency wards — if the clinics have enough room.

EDMONTON — A study by the University of Alberta suggests after-hours medical clinics can reduce demands on stressed hospital emergency wards — if the clinics have enough room.

“There was quite a strong correlation between a service offered outside the hospital that could ultimately influence how frequently people were using the emergency department,” said David Jones, a PhD student at the university’s School of Public Health.

Reducing wait times in hospital emergency rooms has been an issue across the country.

The study looked at Leduc, a town of about 20,000 just south of Edmonton. It attempted to address the problem in 2006 by opening a clinic that ran from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Jones examined emergency room admittance statistics for 14 months before the clinic opened and another 14 months after.

He concluded that visits to the local hospital’s emergency ward dropped 40 per cent after the clinic opened.

That decline was in cases considered semi-urgent such as bruising or stomach or joint pain.

“It makes intuitive sense,” said Jones.

Previous studies have been inconclusive on the subject.

But Jones suggests that’s because they focused on small clinics in large cities, where the clinics didn’t have enough capacity to make a difference.

“The mixed results might be because you’re trying to put an intervention into a population of a larger size,” said Jones.

“What I argue is that the intervention would have to be larger in a larger centre.”

Jones’s study was published in the Journal of Primary Care and Community Health.