Are Extreme Hospital Wait Times Failing Canadians?

It’s not out of the norm for Canadians to wait four hours or more in the emergency room.

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If you’ve ever had to wait an excessively long time in a Canadian emergency room to see a doctor, you’re not alone.

A new report by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) shows one out of three Canadians reported waiting four hours or more the last time they went to the emergency department.

To make matters worse, it turns out a lot of these trips could have been prevented.

Forty percent of Canadians said that they wouldn’t have needed to go to the emergency department if their regular medical providers were available at the time.

However, since only 34 percent of patients have access to medical care on evenings, weekends or holidays, Canadians turn to their local ER.

The Worst in the Industrialized World?

Extensive ER wait times and inaccessibility to professional health care outside of regular work hours aren’t the norm in other industrialized countries.

In fact, Canada has ranked the worst out of 11 industrialized countries for basic health care services like waiting to see a family doctor, waiting to see a specialist or waiting for an elective surgery according to a recent survey conducted by The Commonwealth Fund.

“While Canadians might think we have the best healthcare system in the world, international comparisons help to provide important perspective,” says Tracy Johnson, director of Health System Analysis and Emerging Issues at CIHI. “This report highlights significant variations in results, both within Canada and between countries, which provides an opportunity to learn from policies and best practices in higher-performing jurisdictions.”

photo credit: Canadian Institute for Health Information

Health Care Abroad

The top-rated industrialized country in the survey for ER wait times was France, with only one percent of people waiting four hours or more.

Meanwhile, in the Netherlands, 72 percent of people report that it’s very/somewhat easy to get medical care in the evenings, weekends or on holidays without visiting the hospital emergency department.

Let us know: did you have to wait crazy long hours when you visited the ER in Canada?