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Wait times

Quebec appoints physician to reduce long ER waits

QUEBEC CITY – Public dissatisfaction with long wait times in Quebec’s emergency rooms has led provincial Health Minister Philippe Couillard (pictured here) to appoint a Quebec City physician as head of a team that will attempt to break the logjams and speed up patient care in the ERs.

Couillard made the announcement about the new appointment outside the emergency room of Quebec City’s Centre hospitalier de l’Université Laval, a hospital with one of the shortest wait times in the province.

Dr. Pierre Savard, a 28-year veteran of the emergency room system, will start the new job Sept. 1. Couillard said Savard will keep his job as the head of the CHUL emergency room because he wants him to stay in touch with the troops.

But neither was promising an overnight miracle to what is an old problem that many governments have tried to fix.

In May, the PQ revealed that the average ER wait in Quebec – 16 hours – is the same as it was five years ago, when the Liberals took power promising to eliminate it.

The Health Department’s objective is to bring that number down to 12 hours by 2010. Hospitals in the Quebec City region have largely attained the target, while those in Montreal lag way behind. The average wait, for example, at Maisonneuve-Rosemont hospital in 2007-2008 was 35.63 hours.

The average wait on the island of Montreal is 20 hours.

“Dr. Savard is not there to play police in the emergencies or go and punish the under-performing emergencies but rather draw on good situations like the one here at the CHUL and spread them through the network,” Couillard said.

Savard said there is not one factor but rather a series of factors to explain overcrowding.

“We need to draw inspiration from the good situations and import the good practices,” he said. “We are going to put ourselves in solution mode.”

But the critics were not buying the government’s pitch. Action démocratique health critic Eric Caire said creating a new department and naming someone like Savard will not add more nurses and doctors to the system.