WINNIPEG -- A new report puts emergency department wait times in Winnipeg within the Canadian average, but more recent data suggests they’ve since gone up.

According to updated measures from the Canadian Institute for Health Information, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority saw no change in its emergency room wait times during its 2018-19 fiscal year.

The numbers come from the Your Health System Portal, which includes data from hospitals, health regions, provinces, and tracks national averages.

The emergency room wait time in the WRHA stayed at 4.4 hours for the 90th-percentile.

That means 9 out of 10 people were seen in 4.4 hours or less from the time they arrived to when they were seen initially by a doctor or nurse practitioner.

“For the first time since CIHI started reporting this information that we are no longer considered below average,” said Krista Williams, WRHA’s Chief Nursing Officer and Chief Health Operations Officer.

She added there is room for improvement.

“We want to be at the Canadian average by 2021 or exceed it,” she said.

Thursday, the WRHA also released its monthly report on emergency department wait times, and it shows times have since increased.

In September the average wait time was 5.33 hours. October’s was 5.02 hours.

“Over the last few months we have made the biggest changes with the conversion of Concordia and Seven Oaks throughout all of Healing our Health System,” said Williams, referring to the health region’s strategy for change, which began in 2017.

“We have struggled with our wait times, I am going to be honest with that, but we have the teams that are focused to make improvements and I am confident, over the next several months, that we are going to meet our target in 2021.”

Health Minister Cameron Friesen said seeing the WRHA performing at national average or above it in 22 of 32 CIHI markers is encouraging.

See below for the health authority's full summary of the CIHI results

“These new data show that Manitoba is doing better moving in the right direction. We know there is much more to do, we accept the challenge of doing that work,” he said.

One challenge not measured by CIHI is nursing vacancies.

“We know having a stable nursing workforce is important to overall health system success,” said Williams.

She added that a target has been set to get the nursing vacancy rate down to 10 per cent or less.

As of Nov. 17, 2019, the nursing vacancy rate at all Winnipeg hospitals is 15.7 per cent.

The rate at all Winnipeg emergency departments and urgent care centres is 17.2 per cent.

President of the Manitoba Nurses Union Darlene Jackson called the nursing shortage critical, saying the union estimates there are at least 1500 nursing vacancies across the health region, when taking all programs and facilities into account.

She blamed consolidation for the more recent uptick in wait times and said it’s difficult to recruit new nurses to a system that isn’t stable.

“I think the 10 per cent vacancy rate is very ambitious,” she said, adding that nurses need to be supported with appropriate staffing, equipment, and measures for safety and security.

“There are so many factors out there into making a work environment a place where nurses want to be. So I think these employers have a lot of work to do to gain that footing to get nurses back into the system and continue to recruit nurses.”

Read the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority's summary of the CIHI data: