A recent report, published in the Globe and Mail, outlined some of the patient risks associated with hospital care in Canada.
Perhaps unsurprisingly there was no comment with respect to the dangers to patient safety of overcrowded emergency departments.
Below is my letter to the editor of the Globe.
It is both sad and telling that this recent report on the harm inflicted on patients in Canadian Hospitals makes no comment on the risk harm of crowded and dysfunctional emergency departments. This omission was acknowledged by the report’s authors. Over fifteen million Canadians go to the emergency department on an annual basis. Beyond the inconvenience and sheer misery usually associated with such visits, it is not widely appreciated that prolonged waits for emergency care increases the risk of medical complications and death. This is particularly true for those patients with “the hidden wait” – those admitted patients, usually frail and elderly, who are forced to languish in the noisy, brightly lit hallways waiting for a hospital bed to become available. They are forced to endure long periods of misery – with no privacy, little dignity and their basic health care needs unmet. They also suffer the consequences of delays in necessary care leading to poorer outcomes. In order to make the ER safe again, hospital bed capacity must be increased to allow for a safe occupancy level of 85% and to allow timely ward access for these “warehoused” patients.
Alan Drummond MD