Hospital wait times in Winnipeg half of what they were a year ago: WRHA

Wait times in Winnipeg hospitals are climbing again after they plummeted during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The median wait at emergency rooms and urgent care centres in May was one hour — which is higher than the 0.63 hours last April, but half as long as what patients experienced in May 2019.

The new figures were released Monday on the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority’s website. 

In fact, the 0.63-hour wait in April — while public health officials were urging people to stay home as much as possible — was the lowest wait time recorded by the WRHA since they started keeping track in 2007. 

The monthly average wait times at Winnipeg emergency rooms and urgent care centres fell sharply in April 2020 before rising up again. (CBC News Graphics)

The health authority didn’t want to attribute the pandemic alone to the shorter wait times. 

“Emergency and urgent care wait times throughout our system had already started to decrease in February 2020, prior to the pandemic hitting, so we do believe there is some real progress taking place, but there are a number of other factors at play currently, including lower patient volumes, hospital admissions, and EMS arrivals than last year,” the WRHA said in an email Monday. 

“It is too early to predict whether the current trends will hold over the longer term, and what effect that may have on wait times going forward,” the email continued.

Worry of people neglecting care

There has been concern some Manitobans have let their fear of contracting COVID-19 prevent them from seeking medical attention.

In April, Doctors Manitoba estimated only half as many of their patients were coming in

The same month, the WRHA issued a news release saying patients shouldn’t neglect medical care if they need it.

The health authority said Monday that patient volumes are beginning to return to normal, though statistics weren’t available.

The new WRHA figures show wait times in May were highest at the urgent care centres at Victoria General Hospital (1.33 hours) and Concordia Hospital (1.30 hours).

Otherwise, the wait time was under an hour at Seven Oaks urgent care, Grace Hospital’s emergency department and the Health Sciences Centre children’s ER. 

Here’s the entire list of wait times in hours:

  • Concordia urgent care: 1.30 in May; 0.88 in April.
  • Grace ER: 0.88 in May; 0.62 in April.
  • HSC adult ER: 1.03 in May; 0.58 in April.
  • HSC children’s ER: 0.60 in May; 0.52 in April.
  • Seven Oaks urgent care: 0.78 in May; 0.53 in April.
  • St. Boniface ER: 1.15 in May; 0.75 in April.
  • Victoria urgent care: 1.33 in May; 0.72 in April.

A CBC News analysis in April found an immediate and sustained drop in the volume of patients showing up at ERs. Volumes were down between 30 to 50 per cent. 

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