Winnipeg ERs urged to implement more staff and computer
WINNIPEG – Winnipeg’s seven hospital emergency rooms
require more staff, additional training and enhanced computer equipment,
according to a task force that was established after the death of a
woman who had waited six hours to see a doctor.
“We need to look at all our processes ... and take a look at the whole
system,” task force chair Jan Currie told reporters at the end of
August. “There’s no single solution to this issue.”
The Emergency Care Task Force emerged following a handful of
high-profile tragedies in city hospitals, including the death last year
of 74-year-old Dorothy Madden.
Madden went into cardiac arrest after waiting six hours in an emergency
room to see a doctor. She had suffered a heart attack three days earlier
and was not examined following her initial assessment upon entering the
In January, 20-year-old Melissa O’Keefe suffered a miscarriage in an
emergency room after waiting almost four hours to see a doctor. Like
Madden, O’Keefe had not been re-assessed following her initial
screening. Among the task force’s 46 recommendations is a call to have
reassessment nurses in all emergency rooms to keep an eye on patients –
something that is now under way as a pilot project in three hospitals.
“The purpose of that role is to make sure that patients are cared for
while they are in that waiting period,” said Currie, who is also
vice-president of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority. Other
• Hiring nurse practitioners to speed up the handling of patients with
less-severe problems. Nurse practitioners can provide drug prescriptions
and other services that registered nurses cannot.
• Hiring more ambulance workers to transport patients between hospitals.
• Offering diagnostic imaging services after hours.
• Hiring discharge facilitators to help free up hospital beds that are
being used by people waiting to return to their homes.
• Purchasing new computer equipment to better keep track of patients’
medical histories and to monitor how long patients are waiting in
• Enhancing training for emergency department staff, including off-site
The task force did not determine a final cost for its recommendations,
but Currie indicated it would likely total several million dollars. “The
report itself doesn’t recommend immediate implementation of all of its
recommendations,” Health Minister Dave Chomiak told reporters.
“I think it very wisely states that some of the recommendations have to
be put in place before other recommendations can be put in place. But
the short answer – are we implementing the report? Of course. That’s why
we’re keeping the task force ongoing to continue monitoring and
evaluating the situation.”