Ontario targets $96 million for ER/ICU
TORONTO – The
Ontario government is reducing wait times at hospital emergency
departments with a $96 million comprehensive action plan, Health and
Long-Term Care Minister George Smitherman (pictured
at left) announced in early February.
Smitherman made the announcement as he released the final report of the
Hospital Emergency Department and Ambulance Effectiveness Working Group.
“Our government is well aware of the importance of improving access to
emergency services and reducing the time paramedics spend waiting with
patients at emergency departments,” Smitherman said. “I thank Dr. Brian
Schwartz and his committee for their diligent and thorough report. It
will be extremely useful as we work with our healthcare partners to
resolve these issues.”
In 2005, the Hospital Emergency Department and Ambulance Effectiveness
Working Group, headed by Dr. Brian Schwartz of Sunnybrook and Women’s
College Health Sciences Centre’s Base Hospital, was established to offer
advice on enhanced access and quality of service within the emergency
department. The report recommends ways for hospitals and ambulances to
transfer patients more efficiently from ambulance paramedics to the
hospital emergency department. In response to the report the government
• Appoint Ken Deane, President and CEO of St. Joseph’s Health Centre,
Toronto as chair of the Emergency Department and Ambulance Quality
Implementation Team, which will help the government implement the
• Invest $5.18 million in demonstration projects at North York General
Hospital and Sunnybrook and Women’s College Health Sciences Centre to
transport select patients to the Branson Urgent Care Centre and Women’s
College Urgent Care Centre respectively, instead of the hospitals’
• Provide $698,000 to St. Michael’s Hospital to implement a surge
capacity protocol on how to move patients from the ambulance and into
hospital treatment faster, meaning fewer delays for both the patient and
the medical professional attending to that patient.
“I look forward to working with the government and supporting hospitals
in improving ambulance off-load times at Toronto area hospitals,” said
Deane. “The working group’s exceptional report provides a solid
framework for moving forward.”
Smitherman also unveiled his government’s new Critical Care Strategy,
which in conjunction with the Schwartz report’s recommendations is
designed to help ease emergency room pressures.
The Critical Care Strategy will be implemented over the next three years
in hospitals across the province. It consists of initiatives in four
• Critical Care Response Teams (CCRTs) -– $29.4 million to create CCRTs
across Ontario. CCRTs consist of intensive care physicians, intensive
care nurses and respiratory therapists who are available 24/7 to spread
the skills and expertise of a critical care unit throughout the entire
hospital. This year, the government is establishing 26 CCRTs.
• Increased Intensive Care Unit (ICU) bed capacity –- A total of $38.3
million to open more adult ICU beds and Chronic Assisted Ventilatory
Care beds across Ontario.
• Health Human Resources –- A total of $10 million to provide critical
care training to 450 nurses per year, increase the number of training
spots for intensive care doctors by 10 (from eight per year to 18 per
year), support CCRTs, train community hospital physicians in advanced
resuscitation techniques and fund staff retention programs.
• Other system initiatives -– An additional $12.2 million will support
related initiatives. Key areas that will receive support include the:
• establishment of a Performance Measurement System;
the development of a policy to address ethical issues related to
• and a series of quality improvement initiatives.
“Pressures in our emergency departments often reflect challenges in
other parts of the health care system,” explains Dr. Schwartz.
“Critically ill patients can be assessed and treated in the emergency
department but they often stay there longer than necessary because there
may not be an intensive care unit bed available. By improving services
for critically ill patients through the Critical Care Strategy, the
government is addressing another root cause of these delays.”
“Investing in Critical Care Response Teams, along with the other
initiatives announced today, demonstrates the government’s willingness
and commitment to ensuring that not only Ontarians receive the critical
care they deserve, but that they receive it in the most timely manner
possible,” said Bob Bell, Co-chair of the Critical Care Steering