CKHA officials focusing on improving ER wait times

CKHA board chair Greg Aarssen and CEO Lori Marshall announce a $2 million surplus for 2019. March 29, 2019. (Photo by Greg Higgins)

It will take a team effort to bring down emergency department wait times in Chatham-Kent.

That’s the word from top officials at the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance as they take aim at reducing the amount of time it takes for a patient to be transferred to an inpatient bed after a physician decides to admit them.

The latest figures — highlighted Monday at a monthly update with CKHA board members and top-level staff — show that right now, it takes 13.5 hours for patients to move from the emergency room to an inpatient bed at the Chatham site — up from 10.9 hours during the same time period last year.

The provincial target is under eight hours.

“We’re going the wrong direction on this,” said CEO Lori Marshall, adding a number of factors may be contributing to that increase. “Some of it can relate to our human resources — supply of physicians and supply of nursing staff… it can relate to some of our systems… we’re going through a major upgrade of our IT systems and that in and of itself is something that we believe will provide greater opportunity for us to improve these sorts of things.”

There don’t appear to be any quick fixes, but Marshall and other hospital top-ranking officials are confident that if they can get the wait times back down, it will have spillover benefits to other operations at the hospital.

She said that’s one of the reasons they are making this particular wait time a priority.

“Improving our fill rate for vacant shifts improves not only this, but it will also improve other wait times and improves our staff satisfaction,” said Marshall. “[We are] recognizing that we do have to improve [this wait time], it’s a great one for us to focus on, everyone knows the role they play, and the impact of the improvements will be seen throughout the organization.”

While wait times in the emergency department have gone up, the CKHA has shown some significant improvements in other areas. Monday’s update highlighted that wait times for CT Scans at the CKHA have gone down significantly with 71.4 per cent of patients having their scans completed within the provincial timelines — that’s up from 54 per cent in 2018.

The health alliance also reported a 40.7 per cent improvement in the number of total knee replacements that were completed within provincial timelines.