For the first time in its history, Saskatoon played host to the Western Emergency Department Operations Conference (WEDOC) in April. The two-day conference, which attracted record crowds, tackled a huge topic – "Field of Dreams - The Precarious Path to the No-Wait Emergency Department."
Dr. James Stempien, head of emergency medicine with Saskatoon Health Region, headed the conference this year, the ninth on record for WEDOC.
"We ended up with a lot of interest from those who work in emergency medicine," Stempien notes. "We had record attendance at our event – about 160 people, and not only emergency doctors, but nurses, other professional staff, managers, administrators, government officials, and patients."
In addition, over 40 research abstracts were submitted to WEDOC this year – the most of any previous WEDOC conference.
This conference, Stempien says, is a valuable one. It brings together people connected with emergency departments from across all four Western provinces under the same roof.
"We are all experiencing the same issues and problems, and it just doesn't make sense for us to work on solutions in isolation," Stempien says. "WEDOC allows us to sit down together and talk about what we're doing."
Emergency department wait times are an issue across the country, and around the world. Stempien compares it to the canary in the coal mine, when miners brought a canary into the coal mine to warn them of toxic gasses. He says that something wrong in emergency is an indicator that something is wrong in the system as a whole.
"We are dedicated to our patients and we want to make it better," he says. "That's what the precarious path is all about."
Stempien has worked hard on improving patient flow through the emergency room.
"We are basically the front door of a complicated maze of the whole health system, and by helping emergency department flow, we help entire health care system," he says. However, he added, we have to ensure we are also making improvements in the system as a whole. He says without addressing the bigger picture, not much in emergency can get better.
For the next two days, those at the conference spoke of their improvements and failures, victories and defeats, and how they plan to take those lessons into the future.
A patient panel was part of the two-day event.
"Often, conferences have a panel of experts. We had three patients from our Patient and Family Advisory Committee talk about their views of the emergency room – what worked in their experience, and what didn't, and how the community as a whole sees the emergency room," Stempien says.
Among the speakers over the weekend were Saskatoon Health Region's president and CEO, Dan Florizone, who spoke on "The Holy Grail of Solving the Wait Problem – Can We Get There?" and Director of Mental Health and Addictions Services, Tracy Muggli, who addressed "Emergency Department Diversion and Providing Appropriate Mental Health Intervention to Those in Crisis."
Other topics under discussion were choosing tests wisely for emergency medicine, unlocking the secret to a high-performing emergency department, managing the Vancouver opioid overdose epidemic and lessons learned, and embedding the emergency room into the corporate offices and vice-versa.
Dan Florizone speaks at
WEDOC on “The Holy Grail of Solving the Wait Problem – Can We Get There?”