Northern partners collaborate on a patient-focused non-urgent transportation review

NORTHERN ONTARIO—The needs of patients are at the centre of a just completed North East LHIN review of non-urgent patient transfers across Northeastern Ontario. The review outlines options to quickly, safely and efficiently transfer patients between hospitals.

The review took almost a year to complete and was done in collaboration with the region’s 25 hospitals, 41 long-term care homes, eight municipal social service managers, ORNGE, five Central Ambulance Communications Centres (CACCs) and the emergency medical services (EMS) base hospital (Health Sciences North in Sudbury). It included regional engagements, data analysis, modeling, and three NE LHIN-funded pilot projects to test a variety of approaches (Manitoulin-Sudbury, City of Greater Sudbury, Timiskaming).

The review responds to concerns by patients, hospitals and EMS workers regarding the impact of the region’s growing seniors’ population on the substantiability of how patients are currently transferred to and from hospitals for non-urgent matters. Patient delays for return trips from appointments, patient flow blockage at hub hospitals and stranding of patient escorts after they accompany patients to other hospitals were a few of the issues raised.

“Northerners, particularly seniors, want a better, more coordinated transportation system as they are transferred from one hospital to another to access care,” said Louise Paquette, CEO, NE LHIN. “This review and the report’s recommendations are a great starting point for the work ahead to implement a more efficient non-urgent transportation system for fellow Northerners.”

The review’s final report outlines five categories of recommendations to help build a new model, including eight transfer routes for longer-distance transfers, new information technology tools to coordinate ride scheduling, process improvements to ease the current community hospital staff escorts process, a permanent Non-Urgent Transportation Leadership Work Group to implement the new system and ongoing change management communication.

Two pilot projects tested during the review used a form of this model and have shown success in providing more timely and efficient travel for patients and their care attendants.

“The partnership of the NE LHIN, Manitoulin-Sudbury DSB, Espanola Regional Hospital and Health Centre and Manitoulin Health Centre has proven that an alternative, publicly funded system of non-urgent transportation can provide an effective and efficient model of quality patient care,” said Michael MacIsaac, chief of EMS Manitoulin-Sudbury DSB (District Services Board). “Hospital staff and patient surveys found the service found the service provided a high level of timeliness and patient satisfaction. Over the course of the six-month pilot project, 1,218 hours were spent moving patients between facilities. That directly amounts to 1,218 hours where ambulances remained within their stationed communities servicing the emergency needs of their citizens.”

The review’s immediate next steps include developing a detailed three-year implementation plan.