The Chatham-Kent Health Alliance is declaring war on emergency department wait times.
Lori Marshall, president and CEO of CKHA, said wait times for people who see a doctor in the emergency department and are to be admitted to hospital average 13.5 hours.
It’s all due to waiting for a bed to come available.
“We still struggle with some things. One is our wait times,” Marshall said. “This focus on emergency department wait times is from the time of admitting patients to how long it takes to get them a bed. We decided to try to focus our efforts on a particular wait time to improve that we can all see our impact on. That will allow us to improve throughout the organization as a result.”
The target time is to get under the eight-hour mark on average.
“We definitely have room to improve,” Marshall said of the goal to cut 5.5 hours off the average. “And it’s a measure that everybody in the organization has input into. How long does it take for us to notify housekeeping that a bed is available and needs to be cleaned? How long does it take to clean the bed? How well are we filling our shifts? If people are off sick or with vacation time and staff are not available, that can cause delays.
“Almost every department in the organization has a piece to play in how well our processes work in moving that patient from the emergency department up to the bed.”
Marshall said patients are left to wait on stretchers in the emergency departments until beds are available – a form of hallway medicine.
“It’s a very busy area (ED). Privacy is always a concern,” she said.
Marshall added that the delay is not continuing through to increased wait times to see a physician in the EDs, however.
“We’re actually quite fortunate that we are not negatively impacted with hallway health care the way other hospitals are,” she said. “While the average of 13.5 hours is something we have to reduce, we are not negatively impacted by it in terms of the number of patients who are sitting in the emergency department.”
Marshall said a benefit of targeting ED wait times is there will be spillover improvements to other areas of the alliance.
“By improving our fill rate for vacant shifts, there will be improved wait times in other areas and an increase in staff satisfaction,” she said.