According to a coalition with its eye on the state of medical care in the community, emergency room wait times at Kootenay Lake Hospital are of critical concern.
Representative Pegasis McGauley says the Connected Communities Coalition started raising the issue of long wait times in the KLH ER in October of 2012 and a serious situation arising this spring illustrates the problem.
“The front desk receptionist has been moved into ER and information services have been merged with emergency patient registration,” she explains. “As a result, ER patients wait in longer line-ups before they are triaged. This delay could be critical.”
Upon her group’s urging, McGauley says hospital administration agreed to have signage created so the triage nurse could more easily distinguish emergency patients from other people waiting. Installation of a phone to assist visitors looking for patient room numbers was also considered to alleviate some of the line-up.
“However, in June 2013, neither the signs nor the phone have been put in place,” she says.
Last month, McGauley says the coalition also heard from Ingrid Hampf, IH Acute Area Administrator of Kootenay Boundary that the new $13.8 million KLH emergency room had a “bad design,” more appropriate for a larger facility with more nursing staff.
They were told a study to streamline the work process in the ER and a review of the decision to integrate emergency patients with those scheduling test and visitors would happen. An improvement in coordination between the ward clerk and the triage nurse doesn’t resolve their concerns.
McGauley says as for the critical incident that took place in April, “the patient and family are still waiting for an investigative report that might identify the factors that need to be changed to prevent an unnecessary tragedy in Nelson’s emergency room.” “Instead, they receive new deadlines and excuses, showing little accountability and leaving the impression that there was no issue because there was no death — this time,” she says.
Interior Health’s Hampf says wait times aren’t typical at KLH though they do occur periodically when physicians and nurses are busy helping patients with more urgent needs. There are also times patients waiting at desks to register for emergencies are along side people asking about another patients or seeking other information.
But she says the system in place isn’t of grave concern.
“We certainly are working on better signage so people don’t have to wait in line,” says Hampf. “Obviously if you don’t have to wait in line, that’s the best choice we can give people. If they’re coming in through those doors and need to access a different part of the building, we are constantly looking at ways to improve our way finding so that patients and people in the community can find their own direction.”
“In any building you walk into and people are unsure … whether it’s in a government building or any other place, people do gravitate to where they see staff to ask those questions. I don’t think it’s an issue,” she says.
Hampf assures the complaint involving the specific patient referred to by the Connected Communities Coalition is being addressed.
“We are doing an investigation as we would with any complaint,” she says. “We do follow through with patient concerns. We encourage patients to contact our patient care quality office if they have concerns. We like to hear from people. It’s how we can make improvements.”
The staff and physicians are working through any growing pains that may have arisen in the main reception area upon making the major move — how they do business and how they use their time. But the positives for patient care in the new emergency department are to be celebrated, says Hampf.
“We have a state-of-the-art new emergency facility and with anything new, there are certainly growing pains as we move from a smaller environment into a larger square footage,” she says. “Kootenay Lake is probably the envy of most of the other hospitals in the Kootenay Boundary for its emerg. department. It is wonderful.”
The Connected Communities Coalition, founded in 2002, meets with Interior Health twice yearly to raise issues of concern from the communities of Trail, Nelson, Castlegar, Kaslo, Nakusp and the Slocan Valley.