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Wpg Free Press: Lab test delays key to ER waits

March 3, 2017 — 

As the Winnipeg Free Press reports

A new study by the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy is challenging some long-held assumptions about the primary causes of lengthy emergency room waits in Winnipeg.

The report, released Thursday, concludes the time it takes to get results from medical tests in hospital ERs is a key factor in determining wait times.

A crowded waiting room does not necessarily mean a long wait, particularly for patients with serious illnesses, the study said. Similarly, the number of emergency room patients waiting for a hospital bed has only a moderate effect on ER waits for other patients.

“We found that the number and type of medical tests and scans done in the emergency department have a large effect on wait times,” said Dr. Malcolm Doupe, associate professor in the U of M’s department of community health sciences and the study’s lead author.

“More than half of (emergency room) patients have an X-ray, urine test or other diagnostic test. From discussions with our stakeholders, we learned that it can be very time-consuming for patients to undergo tests, for medical professionals to interpret the results and for staff to take action based on the results,” he said.

Doupe said the study suggests a need for more streamlined diagnostic testing in hospital emergency departments.

Research at the University of Manitoba is partially supported by funding from the Government of Canada Research Support Fund.

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