Canadians deserve the very best in emergency care . Let's work to restore their confidence in the emergency health care system.

The Health Care Accord and ER Crowding

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The recent discussions about the Health Care Accord, System Transformation and Greater Accountability have curiously been a lot about money and little about the issues that actually matter.

Below is a letter I wrote to the National Post, which wasn’t published but nevertheless could be used by anybody with an interest in Crowding and the Accord.

” It is hard not to despair as we hear of the initial conflict between the provinces and the federal government as they try to achieve a health care accord. When Paul Martin announced his doomed “health care fix for a generation”,  our Association called for provincial accountability with respect to dysfunctional emergency departments as a result of hospital crowding.  Fifteen million Canadians visit the emergency department on an annual basis.  For many the experience consists of interminable waits with vast human suffering and for a few it means an increased risk of medical complications and even death. Contrary to public opinion, ER crowding has nothing to do with too many unnecessary visits but rather crowded hospitals and the inability to transfer admitted ER patients to hospital wards ERs are crowded with such patients and until these stretchers are cleared, patients from the waiting rooms and the back of ambulances are unable to access care. Crowding rarely exists when hospitals function at 85% bed occupancy rates and are a given at 95%.  Most Canadian hospitals routinely try to function at greater than 100% bed occupancy. This problem has been studied to death.  Canada is actually a world leader in research on the problem and effective solutions are available within our own national borders.  This is a national problem that requires federal leadership.  With provinces free to do whatever they please, ER crowding  has not received the attention it deserves.  It would be fair to say that currently, only Ontario and Saskatchewan are taking the problem seriously. Whatever accord is struck, make ER wait time benchmarks nationally reportable and make the provinces accountable for any failure to achieve a solution.”

Alan Drummond MD

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