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St. Paul hospital on par with wait times

Mar 11, 2014 10:15 am | Sam Macdonald

The St. Therese-St. Paul Healthcare Centre appears to be on par with provincial targets for emergency room wait times, according to Alberta Health Services.

“We see approximately in terms of activity, just under 1,500 emergency visits a month to the St. Paul Emergency Department,” says Shelly Pusch, North Zone Senior Vice-President for AHS. “Overall, I’d say rural North Zone communities can at times be busy. Our emergency wait times, quite frankly, in North Zone are quite good. We’re exceeding provincial targets, in St. Paul specifically.”

According to Prusch, AHS has two measures it uses to assess wait times. There are single visit situations where patients are seen and discharged, and there are situations where patients go to the emergency rooms and require admission to the hospital.

During the third quarter of this year, wait times for the emergency room at the St. Therese-St. Paul Healthcare Centre have been showing patients are being seen and discharged within four hours, 91 per cent of the time. The target AHS has for the North Zone is 86 per cent of patients seen and discharged within four hours.

In the case of admissions Pusch says, “We target measures for patients that need to be admitted, and we need them seen and admitted within eight hours.”

The target for the admissions measurement in the North Zone is 75 per cent of the time, and according to Pusch, St. Paul is “on spot,” with patients being seen and admitted within eight hours 95 per cent of the time, compared to a North Zone average of 81 per cent.

“(St. Paul) is one of our better sites in terms of the rural north. I would definitely acknowledge that we do have, from time to time, busy periods. Our staff and physicians work very hard to meet the needs of patients and are doing a very good job.”

The urgent care clinic, located on the third floor of the St. Paul hospital, is meant to help ease the load on the emergency department and help keep times close to the expectations set out by AHS. The St. Paul Associated Medical Centre runs the urgent care clinic, and not AHS.

Patients with medical problems that are not as severe as those that require attention in the emergency department are directed to the urgent care clinic.

Though averages wait times are available for the emergency department, wait times at the urgent care clinic are not recorded, according to Leanne Karpyshyn, Clinic Manager at the St. Paul Associated Medical Centre.

“It varies every day, depending on how many patients check in at the front desk,” says Karpyshyn. “It’s an unpredictable situation for physicians to know how many they’re going to see.”

Karpyshyn says she can’t give specific times or averages for the clinic because every patient is different.

“I don’t have an exact time of how long a person is going to have to wait. There are so many variances because it’s an urgent care clinic.”

The urgent care clinic takes patients as they walk in. Depending on what their problem is, and how severe the problem is, the physician at the clinic choses at his or her discretion how many patients will be seen during the day, says Karpyshyn.

To ensure timely healthcare and treatment, she recommends booking appointments at the urgent care clinic in advance or visiting a family physician.

“Physicians around town are accepting patients, and we encourage people to find a family physician, if they don’t already have one,” says Karpyshyn.

In February, opposition parties voiced concern regarding how the government is reporting hospital wait times.

“Access to a waiting list is not access to health care,” said Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills Wildrose MLA Shayne Saskiw, when asked about hospital wait times in Alberta. “Rather than pouring money into the high level executives at Alberta Health Services, the money should be redirected to the front lines to reduce wait times.”

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