The average emergency room patient at four out of five Ottawa hospitals waited more than two hours longer than the provincial average to see a doctor in April.
New data from Health Quality Ontario show that patients waited an average of 1.9 hours to see a doctor in Ontario emergency rooms in April, the third month in a row with an increase in wait times.
In Ottawa, the average wait time to see a doctor for a first evaluation in the emergency room was between 1.8 hours and 3.4 hours in April. Three Ottawa hospitals ranked in the bottom 12 for longest wait times in Ontario.
At Montfort Hospital, patients waited an average of 1.8 hours to see a doctor in the emergency room in April.
The Ottawa Hospital Civic Campus waited an average of 2.5 hours, while patients on the Ottawa Hospital General Campus waited 3.4 hours. The average wait at Queensway Carleton Hospital was 2.8 hours.
Emergency room patients waited an average of 3.4 hours to be evaluated by a doctor at CHEO.
The average length of stay in the emergency department for “less-urgent patients” not requiring hospital admission ranged from 3.5 hours at Montfort Hospital to 5.4 hours at CHEO. The median length of stay in the ER for “less-urgent patients” at an Ottawa hospital was 4.4 hours at the Civic Campus and 5 hours at the General Campus.
Dr. James Worrall, an emergency physician at an Ottawa hospital, told “CFRA Live with Andrew Pinsent” of Newstalk 580 CFRA that health care professionals are burned out after the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Just in our department, for example, we’ve seen a lot of turnover of our nursing staff. A lot of people who were with us for a long time are gone. They’ve reached the end of their rope,” he said. . “We have so many wonderful, new, younger nurses; we’ve been able to recruit, but we’re still short-staffed. It will take us a long time to reach a new equilibrium, but there’s no way around it.”
Worrall also noted that the types of diseases doctors see in the emergency department have become more complex with the age of the population.
“As people get older, they develop more diseases. Fortunately, we now have better treatments and people are able to live with a chronic disease. But when you live with a chronic disease, you Complications develop and problems arise. Often, they go undetected, and so you come to the emergency department,” he explained. “That means the complexity of the problems we see in the emergency department has never been greater.”
Ottawa hospital nurse Christie Cowan says nurse burns are becoming a serious issue.
Cowan told CTV News Ottawa, “Health care in Ontario was knee-deep; COVID and Bill 124 came around with a hammer and took our feet right out.”
Bill 124 caps a one percent wage increase for three years for nurses and other public servants. Some nurses left the profession because of the salary limit, saying it undermined them.
Patients with more complex needs require longer treatment times, which means the number of patients an emergency department doctor can see in an hour is dwindling, Worrall said.
Hospitals in Ottawa are warning patients to expect longer wait times than usual in the emergency room due to the sheer number of patients.
Last weekend, CHEO said it was experiencing a “spring weekend like no other,” with an overwhelmed emergency room and a lack of beds. At one point, 16 patients waited 48 hours in the emergency room for a single hospital bed.
“Since Friday, we have had more young people than usual for this time of year, who come to us with viruses, trauma, and injuries that are more serious than usual. Broken bones, head injuries, etc.: such diseases that require hospital admission,” the CHEO said in a statement on Twitter. “But we don’t have any free beds.”
CHEO said its emergency department experienced its busiest May ever, and is on pace to set a record for patients in June.
Hawkesbury and District General Hospital had the second longest wait to see a doctor at 3.5 hours in the Ontario emergency room. Windsor Regional Hospital – Metropolitan Campus had the longest wait to see a doctor at 5 hours for the initial evaluation in April.
With files from Jeremy Charron of CTV News Ottawa