Ottawa residents without family physicians will soon have alternatives to the emergency room as the province prepares to launch a new program.
A toll-free number to connect patients with registered nurses, an ambulance offload program to free up paramedics, and Wait-at-Home and Stay-at-Home programs are just some of the programs designed to give people other options than going to the emergency room, leaders with the Champlain Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) said Wednesday.
The Champlain LHIN discussed the province’s new Health Care Connect program — to be launched later this week — which is designed to improve access to family health care and enhance emergency room performance.
“Our LHIN has many challenges,” said Champlain LHIN Emergency Department LHIN lead Dr. Louise McNaughton-Filion. “And I’m not the first to say that wait times need improvement.”
The Champlain LHIN ranks eighth out of Ontario’s 14 health networks in its length of ER stays. The average length of stay last October was 9.8 hours.
The province is launching a new toll-free hotline for residents without family doctors. A call will connect a patient with a registered nurse, who will triage the call and prioritize the patients based on medical need.
Although it will be a phone service to start, it will move online by the end of the summer, she said.
The nurses, or care connectors, will also hook up patients and physicians that are able to take on new patients, said executive director of the Champlain Community Care Access Centre Sheila Bauer.
Approximately 900,000 people in Ontario are currently without a family physician, Bauer said.
The Wait-at-Home program allows people to wait for a long-term care bed, while the Stay-at-Home program provides more care to people who are high-risk for going into hospital, said Chantale LeClerc, senior director of the Champlain LHIN.
The ambulance offload program, already in place at the General and Civic campuses of the Ottawa Hospital, takes the load off emergency room wait times by having nurses start on care upon the patient’s arrival in emergency, freeing up paramedics, said McNaughton-Filion.