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The shameful wait for Emergency Care

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Hospital emergency room wait is more than 28 hours for 10% of patients: report

A report by the Canadian Institute for Health Information found seniors are among those with the longest wait times: one-quarter of those aged 65 and older who visit an ER need to be admitted.

Dario Ayala/Postmedia News/FileA report by the Canadian Institute for Health Information found seniors are among those with the longest wait times: one-quarter of those aged 65 and older who visit an ER need to be admitted.

TORONTO — Visiting a hospital emergency department often conjures up an image of hours of cooling one’s heels before being assessed by a doctor, treated and released.

For most patients, that process takes long enough, 7.5 hours or less on average, says a report released Tuesday. But for the 10% of patients who need to be admitted, those waits can be much longer, with one in 10 of those requiring an in-hospital stay waiting in an emergency department more than 28 hours before getting transferred to a bed.

The report by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) found seniors are among those with the longest wait times: one-quarter of those aged 65 and older who visit an ER need to be admitted, and one in 10 of them are kept in the emergency department more than 31 hours before getting a bed.

“For seniors, they’re more likely to have one or more chronic conditions and other related health issues; they’re more likely to need admission when they do go to the emergency department,” said Greg Webster, director of acute and ambulatory care information services at CIHI. “So that means that there are more seniors in that admitted category that tends to have the longest emergency department waits.”

Chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and arthritis are more prevalent among older Canadians and often require hospitalization, he said. Many common conditions can require urgent and often complex care.

Reacting to Tuesday’s report, Dr. Alan Drummond suggested it’s shameful that ER patients who are considered sick enough to need admission “have to spend an inordinate amount of time getting inadequate care in the emergency department.”

Dr. Drummond, a spokesman for the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians, said patients can spend 12, 24, even 36 hours in the ER waiting to be transferred to a ward or the ICU.

“[Patients] are put in a back hallway, brightly lit. They have no privacy, no toileting facilities. Their basic human needs are unmet, largely because emerg staff are trained to deal with the constant flow of sick people.”

The study, using data from the National Ambulatory Care Reporting System, analyzed 10 million ER visits, which represents about 60% of all trips made to hospital emergency departments across the country between April 2013 and March 2014.

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