Patients in the emergency room at St. Boniface Hospital have been experiencing “very unusual” waits to see doctors since Saturday, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority said on Monday.

At one point Monday, the longest non-urgent wait-time listed on the WRHA’s website reached 18 hours and 15 minutes. The average wait at that time was five hours and 15 minutes.

Officials are unsure when the ER will get caught up, but the WRHA wants people to know they should still go to the hospital if they have an urgent health issue.

Wendy Ducharme, the regional program director for the WRHA’s emergency program, said wait-times of 18 hours are very unusual.

“Right now, St. Boniface actually is experiencing quite high volumes of patients who are actually registered,” Ducharme said Monday afternoon. “One of the bigger factors is that the number of admitted patients right now at St. Boniface is really very high.”

That means any patient waiting for a bed in the emergency department, Ducharme said.

ER wait-time reaches 18 hours at St. Boniface Hosp

“They’re patients who can’t go home, so they obviously have some medical issue,” she said. “They could be medicine patients, they could be family medicine patients, they could be cardiac patients.”

“Anybody who comes to St. Boniface and needs a bed could be in that mix.”

St. Boniface has 33 beds, and 27 of those were full as of Monday afternoon.

On average, Ducharme said the WRHA sees between 150 and 170 patients registered in emergency departments across the region at the start of a day. On Monday, there were 254 patients registered.

“The volumes overall in the city have been pretty high over the weekend.”

Ducharme said the WRHA hasn’t identified a particular illness, injury, or incident causing the spike.

“Anyone who’s in that system has already been seen by a nurse and triaged, and will continue to be monitored by nursing throughout,” said Ducharme. “If their conditions change, they will be seen as soon as it’s warranted.”

“It’s just the waiting to see a doctor or a nurse practitioner.”

Ducharme said staff across the region has been looking at the best ways to get patients moving through the department.

“We look at ... can we put people on wards that they wouldn’t normally go to? Can we move to different to hospitals? Those efforts have been ongoing since Saturday.”

The Manitoba Centre for Health Policy released a new study earlier this month, which found the wait for medical tests plays a key role in emergency room wait-times.

The WRHA didn’t have any specific information on the impact diagnostic testing is having on the current wait-time situation.

“The factor at St. Boniface really is the number of boarded patients, so the number of admitted patients who are in the department.”

If you need to visit the emergency room, Ducharme said it’s always open.

“People who require that urgent care will receive it,” Ducharme said. “We prioritize when people come, depending on what their symptoms are, and the people who are truly ill will get the care they need.”