By Jeff Labine
paNOW.com

Increasing demand for services at Victoria Hospital has administration from the Prince Albert Parkland Health Region looking for solutions both in the long and short term.

The most recent report from the health region shows the demand for services at the city’s hospital continue to rise. Lab visits from 2014-15 rose 6.5 per cent to 227,541 in 2015-16 whereas emergency department visits increased by 6.9 per cent to 30,092 in the same time period.

CT visits rose 8.3 per cent to 8,991 while X-ray visits rose 9.2 per cent to 28,819.

Outpatient operating room cases was the only category to see a decrease, which dropped 3.3 per cent from 4,046 in 2014-15 to 3,911 in 2015-16.

Per year, the hospital has more than 1,500 deliveries on average.

Cecile Hunt, the CEO of Prince Albert Parkland Health Region, said the health region is working closely with their provincial partners and the Ministry of Health to improve delivery of services but it is recognized additional infrastructure is needed at the hospital.

“We’ve had the approval for small renovations projects that are helping us to utilize the space we have as efficiently as possible and improve patient safety,” she said. “We’ve expanded dialysis, we have new space for chemotherapy and that was supported by the cancer agency. We’re in the process of renovating space for our newborn nursery.”

One of the reasons for the increase is because Victoria Hospital acts as a centre for the region. Hunt said many patients from the region are recommended to come to the hospital from their family doctor to see a specialist.

To meet that demand, Prince Albert Parkland Health Region employees worked more than 94,000 hours of overtime in 2015-16 and cost the health region an additional $6.7 million.

She said the overcapacity has created additional financial challenges and staffing.

“The 2016-17 year had 55 days of overcapacity or code burgeoned,” she said. “That number may not feel significant but it is. We’ve reached our capacity and we’re starting to use additional capacity, which could be stretchers in hallways, overnight in the emergency room.”

She said the hospital has to make sure there’s enough staff to address that overcapacity but that comes with paying an overtime premium.

Another short-term fix is utilizing the former North Sask. laundry building. Hunt acknowledged the renovations at the building will need to meet the proper standards before anything from the hospital is moved over.

The long-term goal to address the increase in services is to either re-develop the existing hospital or build a new one. Hunt said there could be a third option, which would be a mix of the two. She said the health region approved funds to start the planning process and are able to submit costs to the province for the third option.

Regardless of the options, the province’s finance minister made it clear that those big plans won’t be happening any time soon.

While the health region continues to wait for approvals, Hunt said the hospital will continue to find efficiencies.