CKHA cutting wait times for beds

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In an effort to avoid gridlock inside the hospital, Chatham-Kent Health Alliance administration has developed a gridlock policy.

The policy deals with bed availability.

Lori Marshall, president and CEO of the CKHA, said in late March that over the previous year, the average time between the point where a doctor in the emergency room determines a patient is in need of hospital care and the point where that patient gets into a hospital bed was around eight hours.

But by the end of April, she said 86 per cent of emergency department patients who needed a hospital bed was in one in five hours or under, the target time frame.

The gridlock policy kicks in when hospital beds are scarce and there is a backlog of patients in the emergency department. Caen Suni, CKHA’s vice-president of clinical programs and operations, said all facets of the hospital are involved when the gridlock system is enacted.

“When the emergency department has high volume and we don’t have many hospital beds, our public address system will call out that the emergency department is now in a gridlock procedure,” he said. “That enacts some extraordinary measures.”

Suni said there were a number of near-gridlock situations last fall and winter during the height of flu season. It led to several postponements on surgeries, due to the lack of hospital beds.

He said it can happen over the course of the summer as well.

But with the new policy, hospital officials said efforts are made to create bed space. It can be as simple as improved cleaning efforts to prepare a recently vacated bed for a new patient, or involve a reassessment of patients who are close to being discharged.

“Say every bed in our emergency department is full and similarly most beds in other departments are full, and we don’t have a lot of discharges planned for the day,” Suni said. “Our leaders could then look at potential discharges and enact an accelerated process to clean vacant rooms and increase turnover. This gives patients in the emergency department faster access to beds.”

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