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Going from emergency department to hospital bed takes more than twice as long in P.E.I., study says

Data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information shows the average wait time for people waiting to be admitted to hospital more than doubled in P.E.I. since 2019, while the national average only rose by 27 per cent.  (Steve Bruce/CBC - image credit)
Data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information shows the average wait time for people waiting to be admitted to hospital more than doubled in P.E.I. since 2019, while the national average only rose by 27 per cent. (Steve Bruce/CBC - image credit)

The length of time Islanders spent in P.E.I. emergency departments last year waiting to be admitted to hospital was more than double the national average, according to new data.

In the provincial legislature on Thursday, interim Green Party leader Karla Bernard questioned the PC government about the Canadian Institute for Health Information numbers that were released this week.

In the period from April to September 2023, the median time P.E.I. patients waited to be admitted to hospital was 35 hours, compared to 14 hours nationally.

Health Minister Mark McLane cited population growth as part of the problem, and said his department is working to free up beds in Island hospitals.

Health Minister Mark McLane says the province's plan to open up 50 new beds in long-term care facilities will help with wait times. (CBC)

"Our rapid population growth is certainly placing pressures there," he said. "We are working on that daily in order to [clear] up those beds to help our [emergency] departments."

The CIHI report said wait time averages for P.E.I. more than doubled since 2019, while the national average only rose by 27 per cent. In that year, the median wait time on the Island was 12.7 hours, not far off the Canadian average of 11.7.

The figures only account for patients waiting in emergency departments for admission to a hospital bed, not patients who were treated and discharged.

One of the stopgap measures touted by both McLane and Premier Dennis King is to free up hospital space by adding 50 new beds to privately owned long-term care homes in the province.

Green MLA Karla Bernard questions Education Minister Natalie Jameson in the P.E.I. Legislature on Wednesday about the need for police in Island schools.
Green MLA Karla Bernard questions Education Minister Natalie Jameson in the P.E.I. Legislature on Wednesday about the need for police in Island schools.

Interim Green Party Leader Karla Bernard says it's time for government to take the politics out of health care and allow Health P.E.I. to improve the system. (CBC)

Bernard said those beds aren't enough to significantly improve anything, and said it's time for the King government to take a step back from the situation and let Health P.E.I. do its work.

"One of the biggest issues that's been identified in emergency room wait times, and in health care in general, is the politics, especially in Prince Edward Island," she said. "And so, looking at these election cycles as a problem and having a body that's independent for health care regardless of who is in charge."

In a 2023 report, the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians made a series of recommendations to help improve ER wait times across the country.

The Greens tabled a motion last June for the P.E.I. government to implement those suggestions. The motion has not yet come up for debate in the legislature.

Home care 'keeps people out of hospital'

The health minister said the government has also made investments in home care services to help keep people out of Island hospitals.

There are more than 5,000 people receiving home care, he said, and a doctor was hired in January specifically to support the service.

"That's preventative, that keeps people out of hospital," he said. "That will pay dividends long term. People getting better care at home so they don't end up in a [long-term care] situation in one of our hospitals."