Ontario ER Wait Times Lag Behind Standards

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Throughout Ontario, residents who are injured or ill seek help from medical professionals at emergency rooms. In many cases the treatment received in the course of these visits results in a full recovery. Because the severity of the injuries and illnesses people at ERs have, vary widely, throughout the country, a five-tiered wait time is used to determine who should be seen and when. Those wait times were created by the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians, 18 years ago. The standards are reviewed and, when necessary, updated every two years.

Under the standards, individuals deemed to be at triage level 1, are supposed to be seen immediately. The wait time for those in tiers 2 through 5, range between 15 minutes and two hours. Statistics concerning the actual ER physical assessment times in the province are reported to the health ministry on a monthly basis. Of course having guidelines in place and actually following them are two different things. According to a former head of the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians, crowding is to blame for deviations. One report, released by the auditor general in 2010, indicated that rather than 15 to 30 minutes as recommended by the guidelines, patients triaged level 2 and 3 sometimes did not see a doctor for more than six hours. The failure of a patient who is sick or injured to see a doctor in a timely manner could result in serious, life-changing complications for that patient that worsen their condition. In the worst cases it could even lead to death. Most would agree further steps should be taken to reduce the number of cases in which this occurs.


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