Winnipeg sees record-high ER wait times this summer

Winnipeggers waiting in the ER this summer experienced record-long wait times.

According to numbers from the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA), the average ER wait time in the city was more than 2.5 hours in July. This is the highest monthly average the city has seen in the last seven years.

The WRHA’s monthly report shows the citywide average was up almost 45 minutes from June, with Grace Hospital, St. Boniface Hospital and the Health Sciences Centre (HSC) reporting average wait times of more than three hours.

Some patients at HSC even waited as long as 9.5 hours to receive care.

In a statement, the WRHA said emergency departments and urgent care centres have experienced several challenges in the last few weeks, including issues in accessing hospital inpatient capacity, staffing challenges, pandemic-related staff redeployments, and COVID-related processes.

The statement notes that this issue is “top-of-mind” and they are working to stabilize staffing and improve inpatient capacity to ensure timely access to care.

“Staffing in emergency and urgent care departments over the past several months has been affected by various factors, including the loss of some nurses who left to provide support to the critical care program, COVID-19 testing sites, and vaccination efforts through the COVID-19 pandemic,” the statement said.

“Staffing is currently being augmented by the use of agency nurses, overtime, and the efforts of managers, directors and nurse educators who have stepped up to work frontline shifts, and who support their teams to ensure safe and efficient patient flow.”

Some of the steps being taken to stabilize staffing include region-wide coordination to help facilities in need of nurses and health-care aides fill shifts; and identifying nurses who would be qualified to work in certain roles and provide them with additional training. To improve inpatient capacity, the WRHA is working with facilities to implement surge protocols, using temporary and off-service beds, and transitioning hospital inpatients to long-term care and community environments.

Darlene Jackson, the president of the Manitoba Nurses Union, said the nursing crisis in Manitoba has reached a “disastrous state.”

Jackson adds that nurses are “overwhelmed, stressed, and stretched beyond all reasonable expectation.”

“Record high wait times in July, the worst month in the last seven years is absolutely shameful. As we approach the fourth wave, we are demanding something be done to salvage what remains of the frontline. Enough is enough,” Jackson said in a statement.

Manitoba’s NDP Party also released a statement, demanding the province address the wait times.

“As families prepare to send their kids back to school and health officials warn us about the fourth wave, Manitobans want health-care to be the government’s number one priority,” said NDP Leader Wab Kinew.

“But unfortunately, instead of listening to health-care workers and investing in our hospitals, the PCs are more concerned with their own political rivalries - and it shows. The PCs need to stop focusing on themselves and start focusing on Manitobans by fixing their health-care crisis.”