Ontario ER wait times getting worse, patients waiting up to 45 hours: leaked report

Data from a leaked Ontario Health report obtained by a Liberal MPP paints a grim picture of healthcare in the province. As Tina Yazdani reports, hospital wait times are up and doctors are warning if action isn't taken, the system will collapse.

By Michael Ranger and Tina Yazdani

A leaked report is painting a grim picture of the state of the healthcare system in Ontario, with doctors warning the system will collapse if action isn’t taken.

The Ontario health report, obtained by a Liberal MPP, reveals how much longer people are waiting to be admitted to hospitals in the province this fall compared to back in the summer.

“Healthcare performance is continuing its dramatic nosedive and unfortunately is now in freefall,” says Liberal health critic Dr. Adil Shamji.

The report suggests 90 per cent of patients waited up to 12 hours in an emergency room in September — a 17 per cent increase compared to the same month last year. Once the patients were admitted, 90 per cent of them waited up to 45 hours to complete their visit — up 40.5 per cent compared to last year.

“This was the worst September on record, dating all the way back to 2008,” Shamji says.


The report also reveals patients who arrive via ambulance wait up to 90 minutes to be offloaded to a hospital bed — up about 50 per cent from last year.

When discussing the failing system, Shamji points to hospitals with nursing vacancy rates of up to 55 per cent and shortages of ambulances to respond to 911 calls. He also cites the surge in pediatric patients in recent months.

“Against this backdrop, the Ford government continues to insist that it has everything under control as things slip further and further out of their grasp,” he says.

The leaked report also points out that the overall volume of patients visiting emergency rooms is down compared to last year despite wait times being drastically higher.

Dr. Amit Arya, a GTA hospital physician, says longer wait times for fewer patients point to a collapsing system.

“We have a major, major shortage of nurses that is honestly a disaster,” he says. “When I go to the emergency department, and I see the huge crowded waiting rooms, I see how short-staffed the nurses are.”

“This is simply unsustainable, and it’s not safe.”

The head of Ontario’s critical care COVID-19 command centre recently asked the province’s hospitals that treat adults to accept children 14 and older in need of intensive care to relieve pressure on pediatric hospitals. A memo was sent to hospital CEOs warning surgeries may also need to be cancelled as a result

In a statement to CityNews, the Ministry of Health blames former governments for issues we’re seeing in hospitals today, saying the former Liberal government mismanaged the healthcare system for 15 years.

The province says 12,000 nurses have registered to practice in Ontario this year, the highest number ever recorded, and they will add 6,000 healthcare workers in the next phase of their plan.

Arya says the province is still short 30,000 nurses and suggests one way to remedy the issue is for the province to repeal Bill 124. The legislation caps wage increases for nurses at one per cent annually.

Shamji called on the government to share more real-time data on the situation in hospitals and said masking is one solution the province could implement “very quickly and easily” to reduce pressures.

“(Masking) would be very effective in curbing the spread of these respiratory viruses and decreasing the burden on our healthcare system,” he said.

Ontarians are being advised to keep up with vaccinations and wear masks indoors as doctors warn of a worsening respiratory illness season that’s hitting children — and the pediatric health system — particularly hard.

Physicians at a news conference hosted by the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) said Wednesday that influenza arrived early in the province, and more than half of Canadian cases of the illness so far have been in children and teenagers.

With files from The Canadian Press

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