Manitoba study says long ER wait times due to diagnostic tests, not lack of beds

By on March 3, 2017


Lead study author Dr. Malcolm Doupe says solving the problem will take more than just adding more space in hospitals. (Pixabay photo)
Lead study author Dr. Malcolm Doupe says solving the problem will take more than just adding more space in hospitals. (Pixabay photo)

WINNIPEG—A study says diagnostic testing, not the number of beds available, is the biggest reason for long waits in Manitoba emergency rooms.

The Manitoba Centre for Health Policy at the University of Manitoba study says all the tests required for patients affects how long it takes to get people through emergency departments.

More than half of patients admitted to the ER need tests such as a CT scan, X-ray or urine test.

The study says the time it takes for doctors to decide on which tests are needed, order them, get the tests done and interpret the results is why there are such long waits.

Lead study author Dr. Malcolm Doupe says solving the problem will take more than just adding more space in hospitals.

Doupe says it will be up to medical professionals to find solutions.

“Our entire health-care system, I think, is trying to grapple with what does reform mean. Is it more of the same or doing somethings differently? There’s lots of examples why, and this is a great one, doing things differently is the way to go.”

Doupe says it will be up to medical professionals to find solutions.

Dr. Alecs Chochinov, head of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority’s emergency program, says there’s been a major shift towards more testing in the last few decades.

“If you came in with appendicitis 30 years ago, you would go to the OR, they would open you up, 20 per cent of cases would be needed and we accepted that,” he says.

“With the advent of CT scans, everybody needs a CT scan — is that bad? No. It’s the standard of care now but I think we have to accept those type of things necessarily lead to delays.”

Chochinov said there could be changes to standards for testing and work could be done to streamline the process.

“A previous review of our health-care system, ordered by the old NDP government, argued we may not need six fully acute emergency departments. Some could be converted to deal with patients suffering from less serious conditions. That would allow the remaining emergency departments to have the best possible testing equipment. “

The study found an average of 612 people go to emergency rooms in Winnipeg every day, according to 2013 data, the latest available.

The average ER wait time, according to the data,was roughly five hours.

The study found that only about one per cent of people visiting the ER are dealing with “very high urgency” conditions. More than 80 per cent of those who show up are not dealing with life or death situations.