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AHS flunks latest wait times check-up

Alberta’s top doctor says he’s disappointed by the latest performance figures and adds they need to do more to improve things such as wait times.

The numbers were part of the final quarterly report for 2012-2013 and it found little to no progress in several key areas.

One of the biggest problems for Dr. Chris Eagle, President of Alberta Health Services, was emergency rooms.

In Calgary, officials had hoped to be able to discharge 86 per cent of patients within a four-hour time frame; instead, that number stayed stagnant at 75 per cent.

The target admission rate from ERs into the hospital was 75 per cent within an eight-hour time frame, but the current number again showed no signs of improvement and stayed at 45 per cent.

Eagle believes a rising population and other factors are putting added pressure on the healthcare system.

He’s pushing for items like Premier Alison Redford’s plan for community-focused care centres in hopes of relieving some of the burden.

“It seems like the first call if you have any after-hours problem is to go to an Emergency Room department,” he says. “In other parts of the world, they use primary care differently; they have community clinics that are open so you can get the care that you need at the right time and the right place.”

Eagle couldn’t rule out closing hospitals in smaller communities, although he did say that it wasn’t on their radar at the moment.

“With those communities, we’re going to talk to them about the facility; is it working properly, should we be looking at an FCC with them and should we be expanding the role of the Primary Care Network,” he explains.

Other problem areas for the health care system include hip replacement surgery where the current wait time is over 38 weeks, that’s well over their 22 week target.

The target for knee replacement was 28 weeks, that’s now grown to just over 36 weeks.

With cataract surgery there was a silver lining; things have improved from 40 weeks but not enough to meet their 25 week target, still sitting at nearly 32.

Despite Alberta having some of the shortest wait times in the country, Eagle says in the interest of sustainability he still needs to see improvement.

“We need to create more awareness, we’re going to have to have a multi-factorial approach… including posting wait times on social media, to get these wait times down,” he adds.