Crowded ER causes long wait times at hospital

Jodi Schellenberg
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After a 13-hour wait at the Victoria Hospital in Prince Albert, one woman is fed up with the emergency room wait times.

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Delary Munroe has a history of chronic migraines, which puts her in hospital a couple times a year.

“I do take a medication for them but when the medication doesn’t work, then I have to go in and get a usually a morphine shot,” Munroe said. “That usually only happens once or twice a year that I have go in.”

Last week, a terrible migraine hit Munroe, sending her to the hospital for relief. She arrived at the emergency room at 1 p.m. and didn’t see a doctor until 2 a.m.

“I just kept getting bumped -- they said the beds were full but they had no place to put the people,” Munroe said. “They had no rooms to put the people in so they had no bed to put me in. I kept getting told you are next on the list and it is just going to be a bit.”

This isn’t the first time Munroe has had a long waiting time at the Victoria Hospital.

“I have left before after seven hours but this time I wasn’t leaving, I was going to wait it out,” Munroe said.

Her migraines are so bad Munroe cannot eat, becomes nauseated and has to vomit.

“My migraines get so bad I throw up and I eventually pass out,” Munroe said. “For 13 hours I was constantly running to the bathroom to throw up.”

Although she sat in the emergency department for hours, at 10 p.m. Munroe said the nurses were able to put her into a “quiet room” with a couch, chair and a lamp.

“I sat in there from 10 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.,” Munroe said. “They put me in a bed at 1:30 a.m. and I saw a doctor at 2 p.m.”

The wait to see the doctor wasn’t the only problem -- Munroe said they found her lying on the floor passed around 11 p.m.

“The nurse saw me laying on the floor around 11 p.m. and she told me that they would come give me some IV fluids because I hadn’t eaten or drank in a couple days because I couldn’t keep anything down,” Munroe said. “Two hours later they came and gave me to give me saline fluids.

“I’m not really sure what was happening, I just feel like I wasn’t there. It felt like they kept losing me.”

When her husband came to find her at 11:30 p.m., when she was in the quiet room, no one could tell him where Munroe was located.

“It was a horrible experience -- I told my husband next time if we have to do this I will go to Saskatoon because I won’t do this again,” Munroe said.

In the past, Munroe has left and had a family member take her to Saskatoon to get help.

The Victoria Hospital emergency room has a history of being very busy -- Carol Gregoryk, Prince Albert Parkland Health Region’s VP of Integrated Health Services said they have “close to 30,000 visits a year” and it has very “similar volume to the emergency rooms in Regina and Saskatoon.”

PAPHR has been working on improvements for wait times at the hospital. 

“Provincially, we are working on reducing wait times across the province to zero waits by March 31, 2017,” Gregoryk said. “We have started some initiatives on doing that and trying to increase the flow through our emergency department.”

They recently did a Rapid Process Improvement Workshop (RPIW) and had patients involved in the initiative.

“We took a look at how we would be able to more smoothly help people through that who may be non-urgent, maybe the ones that wait much longer,” Gregoryk said. “We have some changes we need to put in place in order to do that.

“It was just completed a week ago, so we are still in the midst of some changes to help with that flow,” she added.

They are working on getting both the physician and the nurse to triage as soon as they are available.

“We only have a limited number of physicians when we have ambulances and what not coming in, they can’t leave those patients to treat non-urgent patients,” Gregoryk said.

One of the suggestions to the public was to visit the walk-in clinics if they have a non-urgent situation.

“For anything that is non-urgent, walk-in clinics are really the solution to that,” Gregoryk said. “If you have a sore throat or have been feeling unwell for a few day or those types of things, definitely they should. Walk-in clinics can handle all of those things, even minor suturing, they can manage those types of cases very well.”

Although a walk-in clinic would be helpful for many patients, Munroe said she can only get her procedure done at the hospital.

“If I had gone to a walk-in clinic first, they would have given me the prescription for the morphine, then I would have had to go to the ER and get put on IV,” Munroe said. “Then I wouldn’t have had to wait for the doctor. I didn’t go to the walk-in clinic first, which I should have in hindsight, but I didn’t realize I would be there for that length of time either.

“I kept being told it wasn’t going to be long, I was going to see the doctor soon for hours and hours and I just kept waiting.”

Gregoryk understand that there may still be issues and said they are still working to make things better.

“We are trying. It is a very active place and unfortunately we have improvement work to do.”

Organizations: Victoria Hospital, Integrated Health Services

Geographic location: Saskatoon, Regina

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Recent comments

  • Gord
    February 13, 2014 - 01:18

    Wow, all I can say is wow, healthcare in PA is broken.

  • Concerned Grandmother
    February 12, 2014 - 23:32

    Everyone knows the lineups are ridiculous at the hospital. Why isn't there someone there who says if you are here for a cold, a sore throat, or something very minor, then go to a drop in clinic. Our emergency department is horrific. We have went through this in our life time, and believe me, the thought was there to drive to Saskatoon.

    • rita guigon
      February 14, 2014 - 19:58

      A friend was in PA Emergency with chest pains and it was four hours before he was seen by anyone. This is just not acceptable. There has to be someone to tell people with non-urgent issues to go elsewhere when they clog up emergency situations unnecessarily.