Fredericton physician assistants speak on E.R. wait times
Emergency room physician assistants are joining a group of Fredericton doctors in speaking out about long wait times and doctor burnout.
In a letter sent to CTV News earlier this week, 18 E.R. doctors at the Fredericton Everett Chalmers Hospital spoke of patients on stretchers, lined up in cold hallways, and people waiting up to 20 hours to see a physician.
“Currently we’re around 119 minutes for triage level threes, which is two hours,” explains Dr. Graeme Young. “By anybody’s judgement, that’s way too long. Those people all have urgent needs.”
Those two hours are four times the national standard of 30 minute wait times.
Dr. Young says triage three patients - meaning people with serious ailments like pneumonia, a broken bone, or a miscarriage - are the largest group that visit the E.R.,
“We need the resources physician wise, and physician assistant wise, to make the care experiences happen for those people,” adds Dr. Young.
Kevin Dickson is one of three physician assistants at the Chalmers Hospital. As a physician assistant, he prescribes medications, orders tests, and keeps the emergency department moving.
“Over the last few years we’ve seen an increase of both quantity and quality,” says physician assistant Kevin Dickson. “By quality, I mean acuity, sick patients, more and more are coming.”
Dickson says there’s simply more sick people coming through the doors, and not enough staff to handle them.
“We need more man power, or person power, and physician hours is something that we need more of.”
During last fall’s election campaign, Premier Blaine Higgs pledged to recruit more doctors and nurses to New Brunswick, including 10 specialists, 8 family doctors and 6 physician assistants.
“The old system hasn’t worked,” Higgs said during a campaign speech on September 3rd, 2018. “It’s not just about hiring more doctors, it’s about a combination of more doctors where they’re needed, and the ability to see more patients.”
Dickson says he’s hoping that promise is kept, for the good of all ER’s across the province.
“There are a lot of bottlenecks in N.B. health care, and physician assistants could have a role, but here, short-term in the Emergency Department, we need more physician hours,” explains Dickson.
The Department of health says it’s aware of the physicians’ letter, and are working with the health networks to address the concerns of the physicians.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Laura Brown.