Pilot project of social workers in Emergency Departments benefitting patients, reducing social admissions

HORIZON A pilot project that sees social workers intervene with patients in emergency departments (ED) is helping prevent social admissions, reduce emergency department visits and strengthening early co-ordination of social determinants of health to decrease the length of stay for admitted patients.

This pilot project started at Horizon’s Saint John Regional Hospital in January 2022. The program was also introduced at The Moncton Hospital and Miramichi Regional Hospital in spring 2022 and the Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital in Fredericton in summer 2022.

Since this time, more than 350 social admissions have been prevented. A social admission is an acute hospital admission arising mainly because of unfulfilled social care needs.

“This pilot project is an example of how we areexploring new approaches and methods to deliver the best experience possible for our patients.,” said Margaret Melanson, Horizon’s interim President and CEO. “We want all New Brunswickers to be and feel well cared for at every step of their health care journey with us.”

Social workers meet with identified patients after they are triaged in the ED.

Social workers in EDs support patients with a variety of needs, such as medication coverage, accessing equipment, transportation to appointments, harm reduction support and detox referrals, as well support with applications for alternate levels of care, in-home long-term care or disability support applications, housing, and community mental health or substance dependence treatment programs.

Many patients come to the emergency department for a crisis that may change the way they live, work and function in their community,” said Gary Foley, Horizon’s VP Professional Services. “Having social workers in our emergency departments allows these vital health care professionals to connect with patients at the beginning of their health care journey and to provide timely, safe and quality care.”

Social work’s efforts build upon existing partnerships between the ED and community agencies, deepening the understanding of emerging needs, care coordination, and timely access to resources to best support patient care.

This has resulted in many groups of people — both within Horizon and amongst community partners — going above and beyond to support this program to create sustainable outcomes for patients.

Some of our hospitals are supported by their hospital foundations for this program; money provided by Foundations allows social workers to purchase gifts cards or pay for transportation to medical appointments or meetings with community organizations, for example.

To hear more from a registered social worker and the team working in the ED at SJRH, we encourage you to read this story.

Horizon is actioning a comprehensive plan to ensure safe, high-quality, and timely health care is provided to everyone in our province. This plan consists of four priority areas, including the retention and recruitment of physicians, nurses and staff; improving access to health care (specifically emergency care and surgical services); improving overall patient experience; and improving patient flow at our health care facilities. Further details about Horizon’s four priority areas are available at HorizonNB.ca.

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For more information contact:

Kris McDavid

Media Relations