Mandated from the Ministry of Health, Seniors, and Active Living, the Manitoba government has established a Wait Time Reduction Task Force as part of the Progressive Conservative’s promise to improve healthcare in the province.
The objective of the task force is to consult with Manitobans directly to find out which problems in the system need priority solutions, and which solutions will be the most well-received by respective communities.
The task force has been further divided into two sub-committees: the Priority Procedures Wait Times Reduction Committee (PPWTRC), and the Emergency Department Wait Times Reduction and Access Improvement Committee (EDWTRAIC). Since the beginning of March they have been meeting with residents in community centres around the province to see what local concerns were in those areas.
“We’ve had great turnouts,” said EDWTRAIC Co-Chair Dr. John Ross, adding that the committee has met with hospital executives and administration, hospital staff, care providers, housekeepers, diagnostic imaging technicians, and those working in the Emergency Medical Services (EMS).
“We’ve hit a lot of various perspectives of emergency care in various locations and we’re getting a pretty good cross-section.
“One of the things I’ve noticed this province thinks is important is better EMS,” Ross continued, stressing that one of the fundamentals of a properly functioning EMS is an organized access point and triage system. “We have to have a well-integrated ground and air system that is coordinated with a screening system. If a doctor is sending patients to Winnipeg, let’s make sure that they actually need to go.
“Another problem we are seeing is with emergency rooms that aren’t open all the time,” said Ross. “Often, patients don’t always know whether or not they have access to that facility at a certain time. We need to give people predictability, and there are opportunities for improvements there.”
Part of the role of the EDWTRAIC is to also test out unorthodox ideas with residents to see if those alternative solutions would be welcomed.
“We seem to be stuck on a doctor and nurse (only) model,” said Ross. “There are opportunities for other types of providers that can be working in overlapping scopes of practice. People can go to school for a long time and only end up using a fraction of what they are capable of, as opposed to 100 percent.”
Ross also opined that perhaps it isn’t always the best use of limited resources to have a struggling, semi-staffed, full-time emergency room, especially when there is another one in near-enough vicinity.
On Wednesday (April 5) the EDWTRAIC rolled into Swan River and sat with residents in the Veterans Community Hall to listen to the concerns with our local healthcare.
“I find that you have a beautiful hospital with a wonderful clinic and attached personal care home, so it’s a really nice geographic setup,” said Ross.
“I find that you have a critical number of physicians currently practicing. Between all the personal care homes, in-patients, emergency calls, and clinic, that’s a tough gig to be a part of, so having a larger number of doctors allows some the chance to go away for additional training or vacations. Much less than that, and it starts getting difficult to sustain.
“From a longevity point of view, considering your geographical location, it’s hard to imagine this health centre not being a vital part of the region.”
Ross added that a few more health care providers would be helpful, as long as everyone knows what their role is so everyone can be collaborative when delivering healthcare.
He noted that there were a lot of important concerns and valid suggestions contributed by the citizens that attended the afternoon session.
Ross feels that it is important for citizens to provide input on a regular basis, because the system is supposed to be about serving the patient best, and that sometimes, people are afraid of questioning authority or challenging the status quo.
In the end, the committee will take the information collected and summarize it in a plain-language report that will be both presented back to the Minister of Health, Seniors, and Active Living, as well as be publically accessible for all to read.
“I want to make it as accessible as possible so when it’s posted online, it won’t be a series of complicated graphs and confusing language, as well as being reasonably short,” said Ross.
The PPWTRC will also be touring the province in a similar fashion this month, with the goal of providing a similarly-styled report. This report would be concerned more with diagnostic imaging and surgery wait times, such as that for MRIs, CAT scans, and cataract surgeries.
“This whole task force is really about having access to care, and once that’s figured out, it will be easier to find solutions to the rest,” said Ross.
Updates on the task force can be found at www.gov.mb.ca/health/wtrtf.html. The website also includes an online survey or information on receiving a paper copy of the survey, so that residents can also provide input in that way. It is expected that the final reports will be accessible via this page.