Etobicoke General Hospital’s emergency department is not the go-to for all north Etobicoke residents in need of health care.
That was one of the primary messages hospital officials communicated to residents on Dec. 11 during their first telephone town hall held to help residents understand the specialized health-care offerings in the area and how and when to contact each one.
“Oftentimes, people feel the only place to go is the ER, even if they know they don’t need to go to the ER,” explained Matt Anderson, president and CEO of William Osler Health System, which operates Etobicoke General Hospital (EGH).
“We plan to hold another telephone town hall in the spring and invite primary care GPs (general practitioners) and family physicians to participate to provide more linkages, and easier referrals (to family doctors).”
Many north Etobicoke residents do not have their own doctor, which leads many to head to the ER instead, Anderson explained.
Educating potential patients about when, and when not, to go to EGH’s emergency department is critically important to Osler.
Built in 1972 to treat 33,000 patients per year, the same emergency department now sees more than 80,000 patients per year.
Yet EGH’s emergency department wait times remain better than the provincial targets, in fact, better than the provincial average, Dr. Naveed Mohammed, Osler’s vice-president of medical affairs, has reported.
EGH’s emergency department will be expanded and moved into a new wing after the new build goes out to tender next year, estimated to cost between $200 and $250 million.
A coalition of health care providers randomly called 40,000 households to ask them to participate.
Representatives from Osler, the Central West Community Care Access, Central West Local Health Integration Network, Headwaters Health Care Centre and Region of Peel Health Services partnered and participated in the one-hour town hall, which drew 5,000 participants.
Another 95 people called in with questions.
Typically, a town hall at a location would draw between 300 and 400 participants, Anderson said.
Callers to the town hall were advised of the various health-care services in the community beyond the hospital.
“A number of callers were trying to understand the different types of services in the community. Many people don’t know there are community health centres and community support services out there,” Anderson said. “We directed some people to 211, and also how to contact the Canadian Mental Health Association and the Community Care Access Centre.”
Dialing 211 connects the caller to information and referrals to community and social services in Ontario.
Feedback provided by town hall participants will help inform each health care organization’s future strategic plans, Anderson said.
“We plan to offer more specialized clinics,” he said. “We’re finding people being referred to our ER. We’d like to change some of that, to take the focus away from the emergency department and on to appointment care.”
When asked if the town hall was useful, nearly 100 per cent of participants said yes, Anderson reported.
“We want to get better and better at how we use this tool to get messages out there,” he said. “We all agreed we’d do it again in a few months. We can’t think of a better way to reach out.”