News

Getting the right care

A letter from the Winnipeg Health Region

BY ARLENE WILGOSH
Winnipeg Health Region President & CEO
Wave, Summer 2013

Arlene Wilgosh
Arlene Wilgosh

Summer is here and the weather is fine.

But as the mercury rises during the dog days of July and August, so does something else: visits to our Emergency Departments.

Traditionally, the traffic to hospital Emergency Departments begins to pick up right around the May long weekend and continues at a fairly steady pace until the first weekend in September.

It's the same story in towns and cities across the country. Nurses and doctors working in Emergency Departments even have a name for it: Trauma Season.

The increase in visits is not due to a jump in heart attacks and strokes. Rather, it comes from people heading outside for fun and relaxation. Many visitors to Emergency are treated for sports or road-related injuries. Judgment can be a factor, especially where drinking and driving is concerned. Sometimes people end up in Emergency with severe sunburn just because they were lying out in the sun too long.

Needless to say, all this extra demand can strain the resources of our already busy Emergency Departments, resulting in longer wait times for care.

Fortunately, there are a couple of things we can do to alleviate this problem. First, we can encourage everyone to be a little more careful out there so they can avoid the need for care in the first place. Second, we can make an effort to ensure the Emergency Departments are reserved for those who truly need them.

To that end, we here at the Region are embarking on a new public awareness campaign, one that is designed to provide people with information about the alternatives to Emergency care that are available to those with an immediate medical need.

The My Right Care campaign will start in early July and continue through the month. In addition to radio and print advertisements, the campaign also includes www.myrightcare.ca - a website outlining key health services Winnipeggers can access for everything from a sprained ankle to a heart attack.

This campaign is part of an effort I first outlined in this column in January. At that time, I wrote that the Region was committed to enhancing patient flow throughout our health-care system to improve the quality of care and achieve efficiencies. This, in turn, would help reduce Emergency Department wait times.

Since then, we have determined that one of the barriers to achieving this goal is a lack of information. Research suggests that many people aren't sure what health-care options are available to them or where to access those services. And, when in doubt, they end up going to Emergency.

The numbers tell the story. Last year, people visited Winnipeg's seven Emergency Departments more than 280,000 times. It is estimated that 30 to 40 per cent of these visits involved less urgent health issues. That means some of the individuals who visited an Emergency Department might have been able to receive the treatment they required from an alternate source of care.

And there are options. Take our Urgent Care Centre at Misericordia Health Centre, for example. It can handle a wide assortment of non-life-threatening health issues. In addition to providing assessment and treatment of relatively minor injuries, it also offers diagnostic services as well as access to physiotherapy, occupational therapy, nutrition, and respiratory therapy. If you have suffered a sports injury, you may want to consider visiting the Pan Am Clinic's Minor Injury Clinic. Pan Am staff are able to treat most non-lifethreatening bone, joint and soft tissue injuries. They can set and cast broken bones, stitch minor wounds and burns, or give a tetanus shot.

Winnipeggers also have access to two new QuickCare Clinics. These facilities - one is located at 17 St. Mary's Road, the other at 363 McGregor Street - were both opened within the last two years. These clinics are staffed by nurse practitioners and registered nurses who can handle a variety of ailments that people sometimes visit Emergency for, including sprains, cuts, flu symptoms, earaches, colds, and stomach issues. More QuickCare clinics are on the way.

And then there are the four ACCESS Centres. Strategically located throughout the city, these centres offer a range of services, including public health and home care. For more information about these services, visit www.myrightcare.ca.

Of course, none of these options are intended to replace your family doctor. But if you do not have a doctor, or your family physician is not available, you might try one of these options rather than visiting an Emergency Department when you have an immediate medical need.

In doing so, you will be helping to ensure that we keep our Emergency Department wait times to a minimum. Even during the busiest days of summer.

Wave: Summer 2013

About Wave

Wave is published six times a year by the Winnipeg Health Region in cooperation with the Winnipeg Free Press. It is available at newsstands, hospitals and clinics throughout Winnipeg, as well as McNally Robinson Books.

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