Wait times in the emergency department at the North Bay Regional Health Centre have been better than or at the provincial average over the last two years.
Hospital spokeswoman Kim McElroy told The Nugget the provincial data comes from Ontario Health for ER length of stay and time to physician initial assessment.
“Over the last two years, NBRHC has been better than or at the provincial average for ER length of stay. For instance, for the month of April the provincial average was six hours and the North Bay Regional Health Centre average was 5.7 hours.”
She said the wait time for physician initial assessment for the sickest patients has been at or better than the provincial average.
“This means the emergency department team is seeing the sickest or most emergent patients first and the team is working very hard to manage the volume and acuity of the patients coming to the department,” she said.
“What patients will see is that when volumes are as high they have been, wait times for non-urgent care needs will increase as they are triaged accordingly.”
McElroy said the hospital knows nobody wants to wait for hours in the emergency department.
“To help with the wait, patients should come prepared with something to pass the time like a book or a charger for their cell phone, any medications they are currently on, health aids like hearing aids and a list of concerns if they have trouble communicating.”
Chief of Staff Dr. Scott Kerrigan said there’s no doubt the area is short of doctors and those without a family physician are using walk-in clinics and the emergency department to receive care.
He said there are about 7,000 residents in the North Bay area who don’t have a primary care provider.
“We could use seven new physicians today. The nurse practitioner-led clinic (has) 4,000 (patients) e and we have 49 family physicians working in the North Bay and area and they cover 54,000 patients. Based on our math (that) leaves us with about 7,000 who are unattached.”
Kerrigan said patients are going to the walk-in clinic or ER.
“We’re seeing heavy volume and we’re also seeing an increase in the patients needing admittance who don’t have a family doctor.”
Kerrigan said the area is doing quite well when it comes to doctor recruitment.
He says the partnership between the city and the hospital has proved successful.
“Both parties contribute a financial incentive. I think most communities are doing something similar. The city has been engaged in helping solve this issue as well so it doesn’t fall entirely on the hospital.”
Kerrigan said there have been some “exciting recruits.” In 2020 there were 21 new physicians to North Bay – primary care and specialists.
“We’re trying to be as active as we can with recruitment. The care should be provided as close to home as possible,” he said.
“We’re doing a good job, but frankly it will never end because people will continue to retire. Sometimes people get sick and life events happen.”
Kerrigan said if there was a “better stream of people being trained that would benefit everyone.”
“We have to recruit people at the expense of other communities. You’re robbing Peter to pay Paul – it’s tough. If we take a doctor from an outlying community then we’re disadvantaging that community.”