Ontario hospital ER wait times approached 2 hours in April

The average Ontario emergency room patient waited an hour and 54 minutes to see a doctor in April of this year, tying a record set earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Health Quality Ontario says wait times hit the 1.9 hour mark for the third time in the past 14 months, climbing steadily each month since January 2022 when average wait times fell to 1.5 hours.

For patients considered “low urgency” who did not eventually require admission to hospital, the average time spent in the ER was three hours, and more than three-quarters of patients completed their time in hospital within the provincially-mandated target of four hours.

Patients considered “high-urgency” spent an average of 4.5 hours in hospital, with 90 per cent of them completing their time in the ER within the provincially-mandated target of eight hours.

In Toronto, the highest average wait times in April were seen at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, with patients waiting three hours and eighteen minutes.

Emergency room physician Dr. David Carr told CP24 June isn’t when emergency rooms should be bursting at the seams.

“I can say that June is historically one of our slowest months of the year as respiratory virus typically disappear. These are unprecedented wait times.”

“It almost seems like the new norm is that people are waiting from five to ten hours to see an emergency room physician for an average complaint.”

In Toronto, the highest average wait times in April were seen at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, with patients waiting three hours and eighteen minutes.

Across the GTA, the worst wait times were seen at Oakville-Trafalgar Memorial Hospital, where patients spent an average of three hours and thirty minutes.

The absolute lowest average wait time was seen at Southlake Regional Health Centre in Newmarket.

Patients who went there in April waited 36 minutes to be seen on average.

Ontario ER patients waited five hours, the absolute longest in the province - at Windsor Regional Hospital’s Metropolitan Campus.

Doctors and nurses say a combination of care delayed over fears of visiting a hospital during the pandemic, patients without a family doctor and healthcare worker burnout is contributing to rising wait times.  

“What it’s not is an overabundance of patients with COVID. What it is is a lot of burnout, a lot of illness, a lot of physicians are not working the hours they were doing before, a huge loss of nurses in the profession,” Carr said. “Patients have not had access to in-person care in the way that they are used to and then you couple all of these factors with the fact we have an aging population that hasn’t been well looked after in the past couple of years.”