The Chatham-Kent Health Alliance (CKHA) is reporting a record number of surgeries and smoother patient flow in the Emergency Department (ED) following a new ED gridlock policy.
CKHA officials held a news conference on Monday to update the media and said the hospital group completed the highest number of surgeries in the last fiscal year compared to the past five years.
CKHA President Lori Marshall told reporters that 8,900 surgeries were performed this past fiscal year and she is really pleased with the progress to recover from the massive surgical backlog a couple of years ago.
Marshall also said that in April 2023, 86 per cent of patients were admitted from the ED to hospital beds within five hours.
CKHA Vice President of Clinical Programs and Operations Caen Suni said the smoother flow of patients at the hospitals prevents surgical cancellations and paramedics waiting too long to unload patients at the hospital, often causing ambulance shortages when that happens.
At one point during the pandemic, CKHA had a huge backlog of non-emergency surgeries because the pandemic forced hospitals to cancel them to focus on COVID-19 patients.
Suni said the ED gridlock procedures are triggered when the ED is busy and hospital beds are full.
"It's usually used in extenuating circumstances based on a set criteria. We find it's going to be helpful when we have an unusually high utilization in the Emergency Department that also coincides to what you might call a full house," said Suni. "The surgical cancellations when people aren't discharged and there's no movement, the easiest place to go is to delay those procedures and reschedule them and that's what we're trying to avoid. This is another tool in our tool box to encourage that flow when it happens unexpectedly and also preserve services we have on-site."
At a news conference in April of 2023, Marshall admitted the target of five hours was “ambitious,” adding the average wait time over the last year has been around eight hours, not including the time spent waiting to be seen by a healthcare provider upon arrival at the ED. That average wait time was 4.5 hours from the time a patient arrives to the time they’re attended to.
Marshall also admitted there are certain segments of the health care system that are private and CKHA is always looking for different ways to serve the community, but quickly added that CKHA does a good job caring for the community and pointed to the success of the surgical recovery.
"Our surgeries, we've done very well as an organization -- 8,900 surgeries in the last fiscal year, which is the highest we've been able to complete in the last five years. We believe we offer great service to our community and we'll continue to do so," Marshall said.
Suni also said the withdrawal management unit at CKHA in Chatham was at 84 per cent capacity in May.
He said the occupancy has been steadily increasing since the 10 beds opened last summer, adding most cases are for alcohol, fentanyl, and crystal methamphetamine addictions.
Suni added the vision is to create an addictions hub that allows those addicted to drugs and alcohol to get treatment easier.