Emergency Departments under strain; something for patients

May 20, 2022

Dear Members,

Focus on the Emergency Department

I wrote to you a few days ago to report on the May 13-14 Representative Forum and made three key points:

  1. RF delegates passionately agreed that Alberta’s health care, already over-stretched, is in crisis under the onslaught of COVID and the care deficit.
  2. We must, therefore, increase our advocacy with patients and system partners about the challenges we face.
  3. The next paper in our Care Deficit Assessment Series about emergency departments will warrant discussion because the ED is the nexus where almost all care deficit issues show up.

Today, I am releasing that paper. It’s significant because no matter how broad and multifaceted the care deficit may be, most issues intersect in the emergency department. For example, look at some of the care deficit concerns raised in Issues 1 to 3 in our series. Whether in pediatric mental health, women’s health or care of the elderly, when care is delayed or missed, when things go wrong as a result, patients show up at the ED triage desk.

Emergency medicine doctors who contributed to this paper have laid out a powerful picture of the overwhelming strain on emergency care. They have also identified what they think will be needed to calm the chaos in the EDs and improve the upstream and downstream deficiencies that, unattended, will always flow back to emergency. I hope everyone will take the opportunity to read the paper. I welcome your thoughts on how your patients interact with emergency care and what will be needed for future improvement.

"What can I tell my patients?” Go to PatientsFirst.ca

I hear from many members who tell me about the pressures on their practices and the many ways in which their patients are waiting for care, diagnosis or surgery. “I tell them I can’t get them in,” said one physician recently. “They ask what can they do? And I’ve got nothing.”

Good information about what patients are experiencing around the province is needed, but lacking. We have set up PatientsFirst.ca as a place where your patients can easily share their own care deficit experiences. We will use the data to help to make the system better. We hope that being able to give patients a small but important thing to do will make a difference and help both of you through a difficult situation.

The next time you (or your staff) have to tell a patient that you aren’t accepting patients or that they must wait for a service they need, please direct them to PatientsFirst.ca to tell their story.

We will report to Albertans and our system partners on this first-hand information about patient experiences in our health care system. Good information helps us work together to make the system better.

For quick reference to the PatientsFirst.ca website, please download and print this poster for display in your office, or for handing out to your patients.

Thank you in advance for referring patients in this way!

I'm always interested in anything you have to tell me. You can reach me any time in the following ways:

  • Communicate with me privately and directly by email if you would like a reply: president@albertadoctors.org.
  • Comment publicly on this President’s Letter (please be aware that comments are public, i.e., not members-only, even if you are logged in as a member). 


Vesta Michelle Warren, MD, CCFP, FCFP
President, Alberta Medical Association

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