New strategies to reduce waits in McMaster Children’s Hospital Emergency Department
Emergency departments throughout the province have been busier than ever over the past couple of years due to a number of pressures, including the ongoing impacts of the pandemic. In 2023, Hamilton Health Sciences’ McMaster Children’s Hospital (MCH) had over 48,000 visits to its emergency department (ED).
With more children and teens getting sick during the fall and winter seasons, the team needed to come up with a plan to address the number of kids with less severe illnesses to make room for critical emergencies.
Back in July 2023, MCH received a significant investment from the provincial government to address the many gaps in pediatric health care. With this funding, MCH launched the “Growing McMaster Children’s Hospital” initiative, which focuses on improving pediatric care by increasing services, spaces and staff in many areas of the hospital. This funding has allowed teams to implement new systems and strategies to provide faster and more efficient care to young patients in the region.
“Thanks to provincial funding, our teams have been able to explore innovative solutions in emergency care, hire additional staff, and fully use hospital spaces.”
To tackle increased wait times, the team at MCH has created an additional space outside the ED during busy evening hours to provide rapid assessments for less sick patients. This process allows the team to effectively see these patients, and make room for critical patients during high-volume times or seasonal surges.
In addition to more space and an extra physician on shift, the ED has also hired nursing support staff.
“Having an additional physician and more spaces to see low acuity patients during the typical evening rush has taken some of the pressure off the emergency department, and feels safer with fewer kids in waiting areas and hallways” says Dr. Nathalie Schindler, emergency department physician. “We’re able to see our patients more efficiently, and families seen in the new space appreciate the process.”
Since its launch in the fall of 2023, more than 1,100 kids have benefited from this rapid assessment initiative. ED flow and wait times for non-critical patients have significantly improved, some days by an average of two hours over this time a year ago, making a huge difference for children and families needing care.
“Thanks to provincial funding, our teams have been able to explore innovative solutions in emergency care, hire additional staff, and fully use hospital spaces,” says Dr. Angelo Mikrogianakis, Chief of Pediatrics at MCH. “The hospital’s team of skilled doctors, nurses, and other trained ED professionals are well-equipped to handle all types of emergencies while providing better, more efficient care to help kids get back to being kids.”