Hospital officials say wait times shouldn’t prevent people from going to ER

Wait times for the Red Deer Regional Hospital emergency room are posted online

The Red Deer Regional Health Centre wants to ensure the public they not sending people away during periods of long wait times at the emergency room.

“Some people do choose to go to a walk-in clinic or their family doctor but we need to stress that we are not sending people away from the hospital,” Allan Sinclair executive director of the Red Deer Regional Health Centre, said. “If you have a serious illness, this is the place to be.”

Hospital wait times have been a hot topic throughout the City after a patient posted an estimated wait time at the emergency room that was in excess of eight hours. Launched earlier this year, residents can visit the Alberta Health Services web site to see the estimated wait time at the Red Deer Regional Hospital.

While excessive wait times are not ideal, Sinclair explained estimated wait times are based on the variables present.

“With the algorithm, the program is making a choice based on how many people are in the department, how many patients there are to see and the seriousness of the concerns within the department. It makes an estimate of how long someone might wait or should expect to wait.

“We really need to stress that if patients are seriously ill, we want them to come into the hospital and this is the place to go for that level of care.”

Sinclair said the estimated times shown are meant to be a tool to help patients prepare and not intended to be the definitive answer. Wait times could be longer or shorter depending on the situation.

“The purpose of the program is to provide additional information to patients who may be coming to the hospital,” he said. “It lets them know whether there is a shorter, middle-length or sometimes long wait to see a physician. Certainly, there are days where we have an influx of a great number of patients all around the same time or there is a significant number of very serious patients.

“It can change from moment to moment based on the activity in the department.”

Sinclair said there hasn’t been a evaluation on the estimated wait times to date and that physicians have continued to do their job, seeing the patients they need to see.

“The people with the most serious illnesses will wait the least amount of time and if they are really seriously ill, they will be seen immediately.” he said. “The triage system identifies the most ill and those who should be seen.”

He added, “There certainly have been some peak days with high volumes in the department. We sometimes have patients waiting longer than we would like to have them wait.”

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