new program TackleS waiT TimeS
It was frustrating to just sit there for that long. Jessica april, calgary mother
When Jessica April had to bring her eight-weekold son to an emergency room last month, she ended up waiting nearly six hours to see a doctor.
“It was a minor health issue, but it was a holiday and the doctor’s office was closed, so I had no choice,” she says. “It was frustrating to just sit there for that long.”
April is not the only Calgarian frustrated by her experience.
In some cases, as the Calgary Herald reported Jan. 4, seriously ill patients were waiting an average of 18 hours at some Calgary hospitals before they could be admitted to a bed.
Emergency room backlog in the city has become a major concern, but representatives at Alberta Health Services say they’re taking steps to alleviate the issue.
“It’s a complex issue and there’s no single answer to solving capacity problems in our emergency departments,” says AHS spokesman Bruce Conway. “But significant work has gone into bringing wait times down, and we’re already seeing a difference.”
Alberta Health Services says it has cut the number of patients who are waiting in emergency for a bed in half since September 2010.
Calgary-area Primary Care Networks are also trying to respond to the problem by now offering 24-hour care for patients with non-emergency medical needs during evenings and weekends.
There are four such clinics in Calgary — over the course of the past few months, each of the four clinics in Calgary has been launching its after-hours care program one at a time.
“Emergency rooms are equipped to handle serious illness or injury,” says Dr. Margot McLean, physician lead for the Calgary West Central After Hours Clinic.
“Many patients presenting at emergency have conditions which can be handled by the family doctor, such as upper respiratory infections, sore throats, rashes or urinary tract infections. By providing another option for after-hours care, Primary Care Networks hope to ease some of the backlog in emergency.”
This initiative is a partnership between PCNs and HealthLink Alberta, a free, round-the-clock telephone health advice and information service operated by registered nurses. Nurses triage patients and recommend appropriate care — if patients require care after regular clinic hours, the nurse will refer them to the afterhours clinic in their community.
“This is such a great initiative,” says April. “We had another health issue come up with our son, but this time we were able to take him to the Mosaic After Hours Clinic, and it was just so much easier.
“It’s really reassuring to know that this is available, and I think it’s going to make a big difference for people.”
The after-hours clinics can be accessed by contacting HealthLink Alberta at 403-943-5465.
Clinics have been opened in four areas: Mosaic serves northeast Calgary; Calgary Foothills serves the northwest; Calgary West serves central downtown and southwest Calgary north of Anderson Road, and South Calgary serves clients south of Anderson Road.