Numbers from the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority show wait times at Grace Hospital’s new emergency department are up this July compared to July 2017, in spite of a $43.8 million dollar renovation taking place since then.

The median wait time for July of 2018 was 1.93 hours, compared to 1.73 the month before and 1.63 in July of 2017.

Winnipeg Regional Health Authority officials attributed the increase to staffing adjustments with the new facility, something echoed by Manitoba Health Minister Cameron Friesen.

“Yes, we’re concerned that at Grace they saw an increase in wait times, but remember that’s a very significant investment. Manitobans are still learning how to use that new facility, and indeed staff and clinicians are still learning how to make maximum, efficient use of that facility.”

The new ER was unveiled at the end of May: 38,000 square feet, compared to the former ER’s 7,000 square foot size.

Krista Williams, WRHA chief health operations officer, said along with adjusting to the new space, staff members were also adjusting to more patients coming through the ER’s doors.

“With the increase of the number of patients we had anticipated, we have adjusted staffing,” said Williams.

“So increased staffing: we’ve had some vacancies related to that.”

Williams went on to say that the staffing vacancies are now being filled, and that she expected to have those staff members orientated and in the department soon.

“Then we’ll start to see improvements with wait times related to that,” said Williams.

Meanwhile, Manitoba Nurses Union president Darlene Jackson said the province needs to slow down with Phase Two of its Healing Our Health Care Plan.

“When you’re closing emergency departments and decreasing the points of access for patients into the health care system, you have to anticipate that the other departments are going to become busier,” said Jackson.

“Nurses are telling me they’re struggling: there is a struggle there to provide care.”

Wait times at all ERs in Winnipeg were higher in July of 2018 than July of 2017, with the exception of Health Sciences Centre ER for adults and St. Boniface Hospital.