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Health and Community Services
February 22, 2012

Strategy Announced to Reduce Emergency Department Wait Times

Through an initial investment of approximately $3.6 million to be included in Budget 2012, the Provincial Government is moving forward with a plan to reduce wait times in emergency departments in Newfoundland and Labrador with the release of a five-year strategy.

“For many people emergency departments are the front door to the province’s health care system and having access to health care professionals on a timely basis is fundamental,” said the Honourable Susan Sullivan, Minister of Health and Community Services “Last year there were 520,000 visits to the 33 emergency departments in our province. Our emergency department strategy is a comprehensive plan that will lead to reduced wait times in emergency departments throughout the province. Our government is committed to this long-term plan and will invest to ensure actions are implemented as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

The strategy has five goals:

Budget 2012 will include the following investments to begin implementation of the strategy’s goals and actions:

External reviews of the province’s two largest emergency departments, the Health Sciences Centre and St. Clare’s Mercy Hospital, have been completed. As a result, both emergency departments are now electronically recording various wait time periods that make up a patient’s visit. Improvements have already occurred. In less than 90 days, the number of patients who left without being seen - an indirect measure of wait times and patient satisfaction - was reduced by almost 50 per cent, and an improved Fast Track Unit has now opened at the Health Sciences Centre. This unit has staff dedicated to see patients with minor illness in order to reduce emergency department overcrowding. Renovations to the emergency department at St. Clare’s continue and are expected to be completed by the end of 2012.

The Provincial Government has invested over $140 million over the past eight years to improve wait times in various areas of the health care system. Initiatives already underway include an increase in the number of medical school seats from 64 to 84; funding for an additional year in the Family Practice residency program for physicians planning to work in an emergency department; and, the establishment of the Access and Clinical Efficiency Division to take the provincial lead on the issue of wait times in the province’s health care system.

“Our government is responsible for providing the best health care possible to the people of our province, while ensuring that we use our resources effectively and efficiently,” said Minister Sullivan. “Many of the factors that contribute to emergency department overcrowding are a result of challenges in other parts of the health care system and hospital that are beyond the control of the emergency department. Through the implementation of the strategy’s goals and actions we are enhancing the delivery of health care services, and demonstrating our responsible leadership when it comes to providing critical services to our residents.”

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Media contact:
Jennifer Tulk
Director of Communications
Department of Health and Community Services
709-729-1377, 699-6524

2012 02 22             9:20 a.m.

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