There is a doctor in the house but the wait time to see one at an Ontario hospital emergency room (ER) increased during the month of April. The average wait time for patients to see a doctor in the ER was 1.9 hours, the third time in the past 14 months that figure has been reached, says Health Quality Ontario (HQO). The number has been on a steady climb since the beginning of the year when the average wait time in January was 1.5 hours.
In Simcoe-Muskoka, the highest average wait times in April were at Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH) in Barrie with patients waiting just over two hours. The wait times at hospitals in Muskoka, Collingwood, Orillia, Alliston and Midland were at or just below the average of 1.9 hours.
The lowest average wait time was seen at Southlake Regional Health Centre in Newmarket, where patients who went to the ER in April waited 36 minutes on average to be first assessed by a physician. The longest wait time for ER patients was five hours at Windsor Regional Hospital’s Metropolitan campus.
For “low-urgency” patients who were not admitted to hospital, the average time spent in the ER was three hours and 76 per cent of them completed their visit within the provincially-mandated target time of four hours.
In that category, RVH was 3.6 hours, while the other hospitals in Simcoe Muskoka were under the three-hour mark, with 2.3 hours in Huntsville being the lowest.
For patients considered “high-urgency” who were not admitted to the hospital, the wait time was an average of 4.5 hours, and 90 per cent of them completed their time in the ER within Ontario’s mandated target of eight hours.
The average wait time for “high urgency” patients in April at RVH was 5.2 hours, with Georgian Bay General Hospital in Midland close behind at 4.9 hours. Collingwood General and Marine was the only other hospital in Simcoe-Muskoka to have an average wait time of four hours, while the other hospitals in the region were between 3.5- and 3.8-hours average wait time.
The HQO report found that patients who came to an ER in April and were admitted to hospital spent an average of 20 hours in the ER before getting a bed in a ward.
In Simcoe-Muskoka, a patient admitted to hospital at RVH waited on average 18.7 hours for a bed in a ward, while the figure in April at Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital was 18.2 hours. Hospitals in Midland and Bracebridge pushed close to 18 hours, while the lowest average wait time was 8.4 hours at Stevenson Memorial in Alliston.
Clearing the hallway medicine backlog was a priority for the Ford government prior to the pandemic.
Doctors and nurses point to a number of factors for the current situation including healthcare burnout, care delayed over fears of visiting a hospital during the pandemic and patients without a family doctor.
Banner image: Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre – Barrie