Why do emergency departments have such long wait times?

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  • Randy says:

    Obvious analysis. The real question is….what is being done to solve hospital over-crowding?

    Number of beds is, indeed the issue. And an obvious one at that.

    Given the profit off the healthcare industry, what is being done to improve access by way of increasingly capacity?

  • Jonah says:

    Oh and I have to clarify this to. I booked an appointment for 8.30 am for my sister’s vaccines. I left my classes to be with her. And when I went to public health center. They made me wait 1 hour even though i made an appointment. The staff in the front were eating donuts instead of doing their job. So you were saying appointment?

  • Jonah says:

    Are you seriously defending your health care system? I cannot understand as a university student what is your purpose to make patient wait! I just need one reasonable answer. Why it took 6 hours to take care of my father when there was only 7 patients in the waiting room at 4.00 am? I brought him to hospital at 3.30am because I knew that canadian hospitals make you wait like 5 hours in average What all the beds were full again. You gotta be kidding me. What is your meaningful answer for this? What are they doing there, finding a cure to cancer? He couldn’t move his right arm. Please, explain me how this works? Why don’t you admit that you have a disgustingly bad health care system and a lazy staff that do not have any emotions and don’t care about other people’s pains. You should be ashamed of your system. I thought Canada is a developed country. Please answer it, I’m really wondering what is your answer gonna be,, so that I can laugh more. :)

  • Bin says:

    I think every patient want to be cured as soon as. Also, hospital and doctor has responsibility to patient. If the hospital bed always full, it mean government or hospital need to solve this issue and situation. “Hospital bed is full ” is not always a reason. How do you think the large population countries? They are always bed full?

  • Margaret deMello says:

    The big picture is ‘gatekeeping’ . Physician gatekeeping restricts selected patient populations from a range of primary, secondary and tertiary care interventions. Chronic illness/pain is the number one target of gatekeeping as it takes a large percentage of the health budget. Seniors, terminal care patients, patients with degenerative osteoarthritis are among the most vulnerable populations, adversely affected by gatekeeping. Because of it, patients aren’t able to get community or clinic based urgent care, there is poor continuity of care. Patients decline until they are in crises, and appear at emergency. Here they are still low priority because emerge is for acute care, blood, broken bones, head injuries. I went to emerge because I could not walk, due to nerve root compression and needed pain pills urgently. The doc excused himself to see someone who was ‘really sick’. My GP knew this day was coming, I have a degenerative condition, past C Spine surgery, imaging reports, and so on, but he wouldn’t plan with me, delayed surgical follow up, and prescribed pain meds that I used 16 years ago. I’m past the stage of yoga and turmeric, I’m in acute decline, suddenly having to get a wheelchair. So that is why there are long wait lists, because so many patients are not getting the community clinic treatments and collaborative treatment planning they need. They go into crises and have no one else to turn to. There is a recent UBC research article about how to divert even more chronic care patients away from medical care. There is also a provincial planning document of 2015 outlining the same plan.

  • Andrea Fournier says:

    Quite frankly this is rubbish! Most of the people who come to emergency could be managed more effectively at home with their frequent visits to emergency for their chronic problems. Mismanagement by the GP with no health team to support these patients makes for poor business. Family doctors are not as accessible as emergency and that is why people go to the emergency department. Family doctors should be addressing and making solid care plans for their patients who go to emergency 4 times per week. Yes, the hospital is backed up, so maybe the gp’s should take care of their patients better instead of writing another script, and shoving people out the door. A more holistic approach with several disciplines and services will provide more comprehensive care.

    • John says:

      If you cant get a family doctor or are given wait times which can be 6 months or more for specialists what choice do some people have but to go to the Emergency? What have we been paying a fortune in health taxes for? To wait a year to see a specialist by which time your condition has gotten far worse. I guess the health care system isnt a big believer in “an ounce of prevention”.

  • Allan Malek says:

    Re the high proportion of patients not having a family doctor or not being able to get a timely medical appointment…how about making better use of other health care professionals such as pharmacists, who are well suited and highly accessible, who can relieve this significant strain on hospital ERs. Pharmacists’ management of common yet minor and often self-limiting ailments is currently in place in many other provinces (sadly, not yet in Ontario) and this scope expansion has eased the strain not only on hospitals but also on crowded medical offices and even impersonal walk-in clinics. Canada’s highly trained pharmacists have well-defined relationships with their patients and with their patients’ primary care providers, and so, the interprofessional dialogue that routinely occurs between pharmacists, physicians and nurse practitioners would ensure that the one hand knows what the other hand is doing. And when a patient doesn’t have a primary care provider, continuity of care still needs to be provided, and pharmacists are the most accessible of health providers, often open extended hours….far longer than walk-in clinics. It’s smart, safe, cost-efficient, and convenient healthcare…and it’s about time!

    • James Pookay says:

      Pharmacists are experts in pharmacology. They have no training in actually diagnosing a disease or physically examining a patient, and hence, have no business practicing medicine.

      We should stop dreaming up new tasks for different health professionals to start doing and instead make it easier for different professionals to excel at what they are are experts in (and pay them fairly to do it),


Paul Taylor


Paul Taylor is a health journalist and former Patient Navigation Advisor at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, where he provided advice and answered questions from patients and their families. Paul will continue to write occasional columns for Healthy Debate.

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