NDP push for provincial strategy to improve backlog in emergency rooms in hospitals

The NDP is calling for a provincial strategy to deal with a backlog of treatment in emergency rooms in Regina and Saskatoon hospitals.

Opposition health critic Vicki Mowat said emergency room wait times are up 22 per cent in Regina and 20 per cent in Saskatoon this year.

The issue was brought up during Thursday’s question period after a report of a woman who passed away at Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon, which the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses believes was from overcapacity pressures.

Mowat said the government continues to water down its emergency room targeted initiatives.

“They went from having a goal of getting to 0 waits to 60 per cent reduction to 35 per cent reduction. Their annual plans year after year have reflected the watering down of theses targets,” stated Mowat. “For the minister to say he is not aware of these pressures is simply impossible.”

She added that workers are burning out and people are dying because of a lack of care.

Health minister Jim Reiter acknowledged that wait times are far more problematic at this time compared to last year’s traffic, mentioning that he learned of the situation’s severity about a week and a half ago.

He said it’s a complex issue which the government and the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) are working to fix with the help of an established command centre.

“They’re issues that patients are admitted and there’s not enough room in the hospital, which means it’s a case of admissions and discharges, they need to make sure those are done properly,” explained Reiter.

He admitted that the command centre is starting to see some success in Regina, but it has yet to be reflected in Saskatoon. “They’re working diligently to get there.”

When asked if overcapacity was the reason for the patient’s death at RUH, Reiter replied care was not the cause of death.

Dr. Rashaad Hansia, physician executive for integrated urban heatlh with the SHA, said the command centre is in place to help support patient flow and continue supporting patient care.

He believes there are a number of factors as to why Saskatoon hospitals have been suffering from overcrowding.

“I don’t think this is a new problem, I think it’s been developing for a long time. It fluctuates over time, especially with things like flu season,” said Hansia. “I also can say there are systemic issues that can be addressed to sort this out.

He noted that the SHA has a long-term strategy of addressing the root causes of what’s causing pressures in emergency departments such as finding ways to support patients and communities.

(With files from Moises Canales)

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