Program pairing police, nurses could be expanded: hospital CEO

The exterior of the Windsor Regional Hospital emergency department on May 19, 2023.  (Jennifer La Grassa/CBC - image credit)
The exterior of the Windsor Regional Hospital emergency department on May 19, 2023. (Jennifer La Grassa/CBC - image credit)

A program that sees nurses from Windsor Regional Hospital paired with police officers responding to substance-related calls in the community is showing positive results and could be expanded, the hospital's CEO says.

Windsor Regional Hospital (WRH) CEO David Musyj said the program is running three nights a week — from Friday to Sunday — but the hospital is looking at expanding it to seven days a week.

"We're seeing there's still is a demand, of course, the rest of the week,"  Musyj said at a hospital board meeting on Thursday.

The program aims to more effectively respond to non-emergency, substance-use related incidents. It will also steer people away from the criminal justice system, as well as hospital emergency rooms.

The teams provide immediate care and referrals to services to people requiring intervention before they go to the ER.

In total, 271 ER visits have been averted in the first 29 weeks of the program, according to data Musyj presented to the board.

"We have seen a rather substantial reduction in ED visits from those individuals that we have come in contact with," he said.

The hospital tracked visits from those people before and after the launch of the program and found a reduction of about 40 per cent, he said.

Since the program was launched in the spring, there have been just under 800 calls for service. In nearly 450 cases, people have been referred to community services.

Dozens of people have received care for substance use-related wounds, and more than 100 naloxone kits and fentanyl test strips have been given out.

"If we can deal with wounds in the community before they require emergency treatment, that's positive and they can follow up with these individuals to make sure the wound is clean and doesn't get infected," he said.

The program launched in May and was extended for another six months in August.

It comes amid calls for additional resources in the community that would alleviate pressure on police, who end up responding to calls involving mental health and substances.

In November, Windsor's police chief said that it's "not sustainable" for police to be the lead agency responding in these situations.