July 23rd, 2024

‘Learning phase’ at new collection lab contributing to long wait times

By Gillian Slade on April 5, 2017.

NEWS PHOTO EMMA BENNETT The recently opened laboratory on Carry Drive S.E. has been experiencing long lines during peak hours.

gslade@medicinehatnews.com  @MHNGillianSlade

The laboratory on Carry Drive was bulging with patients earlier this week with some having to wait an hour for service, says Alberta Health Services.

At 10 a.m. on Tuesday the lineup was out the door, said Dorothy Ward, South Zone laboratory director Alberta Health Services (AHS).

“We are experiencing a very high volume of demand at the collection site on Carry Drive taking up to an hour wait time,” said Ward.

The long wait is only at certain times of the day. Ward returned to the Carry Drive lab at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday and there were only about six people in the waiting room, she said. Peak hours are from 8 a.m. to noon especially on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, said Ward. There is a lower volume on Thursdays and Fridays.

If people aren’t coming in after fasting and it’s not an urgent request for lab work there are other times of day when it will be much quicker, Ward said.

The Carry Drive laboratory is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Friday and from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. There have been two Saturdays since the lab opened and while very busy in the morning there were hardly any patients in the afternoons, said Ward.

“We are fully-staffed but we have new staff, new to Alberta Health Services processes, somewhat new to the lab information system, and new to the space. We are in a learning phase,” said Ward.

The wait though is comparable to what Medicine Hat Diagnostic Laboratory (MHDL) saw during their peak hours, she explained.

When AHS was designing the new lab on Carry Drive it combined data on the volume of patients per hour from both MHDL sites to determine the appropriate number of phlebotomy collection chairs and then added a few more, said Ward.

There are 12 phlebotomy rooms plus two flex-rooms, for a total of 14, where blood can be collected from patients at Carry Drive, said Ward. There are another four collection stations at the hospital as well.

AHS recognizes that “patients are frustrated,” said Ward who is asking people to be patient as staff become familiar with things and are able to work faster.

“We are monitoring that,” said Ward. “It’s not only staff adjustment but patient adjustment as well.”

People do have the option of going to the hospital laboratory as an alternative, which is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. A similar pattern for peak times exists there too. It is busiest in the morning and tails off in the afternoon, said Ward.

Plans are already in the works for a new system that will give patients the option of booking an appointment for lab work rather than just turning up and waiting, said Ward. A computer application that includes an automated booking system will be introduced this summer. This will allow patients to go online or telephone to book a specific time.

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