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Wait times

B.C. pilot project for ER wait times deemed a success

VANCOUVER – A pilot project aimed at decongesting crowded Emergency Rooms at four British Columbia hospitals has succeeded in reducing wait times. The B.C. project, headed by the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority and Providence Health Care, included emergency departments at Vancouver General Hospital, St. Paul’s Hospital, Richmond Hospital and Lions Gate Hospital.

The project found that 25 percent more patients experienced shorter wait times for treatment in the first half of this year compared to the same period in 2007.

Dr. Jeff Coleman (pictured), Chief Operating Officer for Richmond Health Services, told the Canadian Press that emergency departments at four other hospitals in New Westminster, Burnaby, Surrey and Abbotsford will be included in a future pilot project.

“We’ll want to share it with other emergency systems certainly, across the province, and we’re also looking at how do you apply pay-for-performance or incentive-based funding formula to other areas - like surgery and so on.”

Coleman, who is also an emergency doctor at Richmond Hospital, said some basic changes led to speedier service in the ERs. They included having a doctor, along with nurses, assess patients as they came into the emergency department instead of having people wait to see a doctor.

Changes also included bedside registration that involved a clerk wheeling a computer to a patient who didn’t have to stay in a waiting room.

The results of the pilot project were most striking at two community hospitals - Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver and Richmond Hospital.

At Lions Gate, 57 percent of patients requiring admission were moved to a bed within a 10-hour target, compared to 39 percent before the study.

In Richmond, 67 percent of emergency room patients who needed to be admitted were placed in a bed outside the ER within 10 hours, compared to 39 percent before the pay-for-performance incentives were introduced.

Hospitals in Britain and some European countries receive so-called activity-based funding and proponents of that system say Canada should do the same to increase productivity and slash wait lists.