Wait times at Hawkesbury hospital are on the rise
At least two of these three hospitals - Pembroke Regional Hospital and Hawkesbury and District General Hospital - risk having a portion of their provincial funding clawed out of their budgets if they don't reverse the trend.
Of 11 eastern Ontario emergency departments, Pembroke posted the region's sharpest spike and longest wait, according to the most recent provincial data.
Hawkesbury, eastern Ontario's busiest rural hospital, had the second-longest wait for complex admitted cases at 20 hours, up slightly from 19 hours in 2009.
When the problem was at its worst, Hawkesbury had the region's longest wait, with hard-to-treat patients spending up to 30 hours in emergency.
By 2010, with extra provincial funding to tackle the problem, that wait decreased to 13 hours.
The improvements have since been held up as an example for other eastern Ontario hospitals to follow.
However, the shorter wait times have encouraged a greater influx of patients from nearby west Quebec, which suffers from a chronic shortage of health services.
As a result, Hawkesbury's emergency department has seen its wait times creep up again, said Marc LeBoutillier, the hospital's chief executive. officer
"Our biggest challenge is that we don't have enough beds for the patients who need to be admitted," he commented. "We're transparent when it comes to our challenges and this is one of the biggest ones when it comes to issues that affect wait times."
LeBoutillier pointed out there are two categories of complex cases - complex non-admitted and complex admitted.
In the complex non-admitted category, LeBoutillier noted, the wait time at the Hawkesbury hospital is about 9.7 hours, which is only slightly higher than the provincial target of eight hours.
"In that category, we're doing fairly well," he told The Review. "Those are the patients that don't need to admitted"
The major challenge, LeBoutillier noted, is the complex admitted category, which requires that patients be admitted to the hospital for care.
"That's where the wait times have creeped up," he noted. "We just don't have enough beds.
"The reality is we need a bigger hospital and while that won't happen overnight, it's currently in the works."
LeBoutillier has promised to find additional ways to deliver quicker emergency care. The hospital is looking to partner with Hawkesbury's 23-member family health team on an outpatient chronic-disease management program.
The idea is to improve community care patients don't have to turn to the emergency department as frequently.
"This health team is the largest in eastern Ontario and it's here in our community," LeBoutillier stated. "The goal will be to prevent emergency visits from patients with chronic diseases, as well as provide alternative care for patients who are discharged. This way, patients won't have to keep returning to the emergency room for care."
LeBoutillier said the emergency department has been under "intense pressure" since demand has increased by 24 per cent over the last three years.
The emergency department was originally built to handle about 12,000 visits a year, but now handles more than 36,000 cases.
In fact, the emergency department received 36,549 visits in 2011-2012.
The hospital will undergo a major redevelopment, but construction isn't expected to begin for at least another two years.
"As I've stated, we need more beds and that will come with the redevelopment," LeBoutillier remarked. "But until then, we're going to do what we can to ensure patients receive the best, most efficient care possible."
The Glengarry Memorial Hospital's wait of 10 hours is still within the regional average (11 hours), but it has increased from nine hours in 2009.
Wednesday, August 29, 2012