The provincial advisor on quality in health care says emergency wait times are on the decline in Ontario.
Health Quality Ontario released a report Tuesday, Under Pressure: Emergency Department Performance in Ontario, that shows a 16 per cent drop in the average amount of time nine out of 10 patients waited in emergency to see a doctor. The average wait time dropped from from 3 hours and 36 minutes to 3 hours.
The findings are based on data from the provincial health ministry and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, as well as accounts from patients and caregivers.
The report also found a 10 per cent drop over the past seven years in the amount of time 90 per cent of patients spent in emergency, from 8 hours and 42 minutes to 7 hours and 48 minutes.
However, the data also shows that many patients who needed to be admitted to hospital had to wait a long time in emergency for a bed. The report suggests this is often because patients who should be receiving more appropriate care in other settings such as long term care remain in hospital.
“Patients may spend hours and sometimes even days lying on stretchers in emergency examination rooms or hallways,” said Dr. Joshua Tepper, President and CEO of Health Quality Ontario.
The report also outlines some of the programs and strategies that have been implemented to relieve the pressure on emergency departments in Ontario. In 2008, the Emergency Room Wait Time Strategy was launched, along with the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care’s Patients First action plan, and Health Quality Ontario’s Emergency Department Return Visit Quality Program.
“Even with the demographic challenges the province is facing, the concerted efforts made by government, hospitals and others to improve the performance of Ontario’s emergency departments have brought many positive changes,” said Dr. Tepper.
“But it’s clear that much work still needs to be done to make emergency departments work better for all patients.”
The report found that a 2014/15 patient experience survey showed around 73 per cent of respondents said they received excellent, very good or good care, with around 27 rated their care as fair or poor.