Waiting in the Emergency Department

The top three reasons you’re waiting in the Emergency Department

The Emergency Departments at LHSC (and mirrored across the province and country) are experiencing a sustained surge in demand. There are a number of factors contributing to extremely lengthy wait times, but there are some core reasons why some patients wait longer than others.

Emergency Department (ED) care is determined by patient acuity.  That means that patients with more severe illness or injury will be seen before others with less severe impairments or symptoms.

Along with an aging population that requires more acute health care, there are other reasons why some patients will be left waiting longer than others. After asking LHSC’s Emergency Department leaders why some may experience long wait times, they noted the top three reasons:

1. We are the South West region’s only tertiary and quaternary acute care centre.

LHSC is the leading tertiary care and trauma centre in southwestern Ontario. We treat patients from across the region who experienced a traumatic injury or require a specialized level of care. This results in more emergency cases presenting to our hospitals (University and Victoria Hospitals). Emergent and urgent cases are prioritized based on acuity, and there is a greater volume of high acuity patients in our emergency departments.

2. We are operating over capacity.

To be able to admit new patients, we must discharge patients to free up beds. At this time, we are moving patients to units outside of the Emergency Departments so there are available bed spaces in the EDs for new patients. Our current hospital capacity is over 100%, negatively impacting wait times in the EDs with an influx of patients and lack of available beds.

3. While we see more illnesses in the fall and winter, there are also individuals who may not have received care during the pandemic, creating more emergent and urgent health care needs. 

There are three major respiratory viruses currently circulating in the community – COVID-19, seasonal influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). This is resulting in an unprecedented level of children needing emergency care. There are also a number of adults requiring emergency care for a variety of reasons. We have an aging population, and with that often comes an increased need for acute care. There are also a number of people who delayed seeking care for ailments or were waitlisted due to the pandemic, creating more acute care cases as a result.

Learn more about your alternate health care options on the Know Your Health Care Options web page.