The Moncton Hospital, hoping to eliminate congestion in its emergency room, has launched a website to help patients figure out where they should go to receive health care in the most timely fashion.
The Why Wait campaign is a partnership with family medicine, nurse practitioners, local pharmacists, Tele-Care 811 and after-hours clinics.
The purpose is to provide access to health care and the information patients need, when they need it, the hospital says.
Horizon Health estimates that around one in four patients who go to the emergency room, have non-urgent symptoms and could receive faster care elsewhere.
Now, Moncton residents thinking of visiting the ER at Moncton Hospital can visit sowhywait.ca, a one-stop shop that can help identify which kind of service provider would best fit their medical needs.
The site also indicates where a particular problem is likely to fall on a spectrum of five categories of urgency.
Major trauma, for instance, would be considered the most urgent, or Level 1, severe. A sore throat would be Level 5, non-urgent.
"What we're really trying to do is avoid having people whose medical needs are not terribly urgent, to avoid long waits in the ER department," said Dr. Serge Melanson, chief of staff in the Moncton area for Horizon Health.
Part of the problem is that people don't know how urgent their medical problems may be, and the information has not been available in one spot.
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Last year, the Moncton Hospital's emergency department treated close to 57,000 patients, more than the number of patients seen in the same time period at the Toronto General Hospital's emergency room.
"It's very heartbreaking to see … a mother with their young child with an ear ache and fever waiting for four to five hours in our busy, crowded ER department," he said.
"When they could be waiting at home and resting comfortably and making an appointment with their own family doctor or with an after hours clinic to be seen within 20 to 30 minutes."
The new website also provides information about what to expect at the emergency room, pharmacist and family doctor and from Tele-Care 811.
Redirect program also helps
Melanson said the campaign coincides with the hospital's pilot ER Community Redirect Program. In this program, patients with non-life-threatening symptoms and seen by a triage nurse might be directed to a more appropriate place for care with a same-day appointment.
So far, more than 200 patients have been redirected since the pilot project started last summer. Last month, the hospital redirected 50 people.
"Patients are telling us that they like this and would much rather be at home and resting for a scheduled appointment rather than waiting in a crowded, busy ER department, " Melanson said.
"We're very optimistic this will continue to build over time."