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Ontario Wait Times

ER Wait Times - Frequently Asked Questions

Things To Consider

Time Spent in ER

Understanding ER Wait Times Information



Things To Consider

Where can I go to get health care now?

Patients in Ontario have many choices for getting immediate and unscheduled care. These include:

You can find information about where you can get immediate and unscheduled care in your area, instead of visiting the ER, at www.ontario.ca/healthcareoptions.

How do I choose where to go for immediate and unscheduled care?

For minor problems like coughs and colds, minor injuries, and more long-standing or chronic medical problems, you can get care at a family care provider’s office, an urgent care centre or a walk-in clinic.

For medical problems which are more serious and require immediate medical attention (e.g., x-rays, laboratory testing or treatment), you may need to visit an emergency department, an urgent care centre or a walk-in clinic that offers these services. Some urgent care centres or walk-in clinics can provide services like sutures and splints. Others cannot.

If you have time, consider calling Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000. Telehealth Ontario is a free and confidential telephone service that you can call for advice on whether you need to get emergency care or whether another option is right for you. You can call Telehealth Ontario 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

A call to Telehealth Ontario does not replace 911 — that is always the first number you should call in emergency situations.

You can also call the hospital ER that you are considering going to, to see if they can help you to decide if you need to visit the ER.

Who can help me choose where to go now?

Call Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000 to get free and confidential health advice or general health information. You can call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

A call to Telehealth Ontario does not replace 911 — that is always the first number you should call in emergency situations.

If I need to go to an ER now, how do I choose which ER to go to?

Where is the nearest ER located?

There may be several ERs in your community that provide the services you need. Search here for the ERs closest to your location.



Time Spent in an ER

Which ERs will I spend the least time in for problems like mine?

The Ontario government collects and reports ER performance data from 126 hospitals across the province. Search here to find out how much time you can expect to spend at an ER in your area.

How much time will I spend in an ER?

Many things may affect how much time you will spend in an ER :

How should I use this website?

On this website, you will find information on :

The information on this website is not “real-time information” (i.e., it does not tell you what the waiting time is today at a hospital’s ER). The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care updates the ER information on this website on the last Thursday of every month.

Does the type, location and size of a hospital affect how much time I may spend in the ER?

Yes. You will probably spend more time in an ER at a larger, big city hospital. Those hospitals see more patients than small hospitals in rural areas do. Large, big city hospitals are also likely to see more patients who are sicker and in more urgent need of treatment.

Types of Hospitals

Ontario has different kinds of hospitals. Here are descriptions of them :

Teaching Hospitals provide acute and complex patient care. They are members of an organization called the Council of Academic Hospitals of Ontario (CAHO). Teaching hospitals are connected to a medical or health sciences school. They do research and they provide education and training for people who are, or are studying to be, health care professionals (e.g., medical interns and residents, nurses, physiotherapists).

Acute Care Hospitals treat patients for short but severe illnesses, for conditions that are due to disease or trauma (e.g., an accident) and during recovery from surgery.

Complex Care Hospitals treat patients who need 24-hour medical care and services that are not offered anywhere else. Their patients may have conditions (e.g., physical, cognitive or behavioural) that limit their ability to live independently in the community.

Very High-Volume Community Hospitals treat over 50,000 patients in their ER every year.

High-Volume Community Hospitals treat between 30,000 but less than 50,000 patients in their ER every year.

Medium-Volume Community Hospitals treat between 20,000 but less than 30,000 patients in their ER every year.

Low-Volume Community Hospitals treat less than 20,000 patients in their ER every year. In general, these hospitals are a community’s only available hospital.

Paediatric Hospitals treat only patients who are 18 years of age or less. In general, they provide all types of services for infants, children and young people.

Urgent Care Centres provide services without an appointment to patients who need treatment for non-life threatening conditions

What happens once an ER doctor sees me?

During your visit to the ER, a doctor will examine you and decide on what follow-up care you need. This could be a discharge to your home, more tests in the ER (e.g., an x-ray, blood tests) or admission to a hospital bed. The doctor’s decisions may affect how much time you spend in the ER.

What hospitals have ER wait times information on this website?

The 126 hospitals that provide most of the ER care in Ontario are reporting wait time information on this website. Each of them provides ER care for over 20,000 patients every year. All together, they provide care for 90 per cent of the patients who visit ERs in Ontario.

All of these hospitals use the same system to report their information. It is called the Level 1 National Ambulatory Care Reporting System (NACRS), Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI).

The NACRS is a Canada-wide health information collection system. There are very strict rules for collecting the information. This makes sure that the information is high quality, unbiased, relevant and reliable.



Understanding ER Wait Times Information

What does “ER Wait Times” mean?

ER Wait Times means the total time that someone who visits an ER looking for immediate, unscheduled care spends in the ER. “Total Time Spent in the ER” is the maximum amount of time 9 out of 10 patients spend in an ER receiving care or waiting for admission to a hospital bed. The measurement of wait time :

During the time that a patient is in the ER, doctors and nurses may be treating the patient's condition or ordering tests and waiting for test results so they can decide on  the best course of treatment.

Sometimes, the treatment for a condition means that the patient needs to be admitted to a hospital inpatient bed. A patient may need to spend more time being cared for in the ER until a hospital bed is available.

How is time spent in the ER measured?

Hospitals keep track of when each patient who goes to the ER is registered or triaged and when the patient is discharged or admitted to the hospital. (“Triage” is a medical term that refers to the process of sorting people who go to the ER into groups, based on their need for, or the likelihood that they will benefit from, immediate medical treatment. A nurse, specially trained in emergency care, handles the triage process. This process makes sure that people who are in the most urgent need of care get seen first.)

The hospitals collect this information for every ER patient. They summarize all the information and analyze it. From this information, the hospital calculates the total length of time that a patient spends in its ER.

How old is the wait time information on this website?

The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care updates the wait time information on the fourth Thursday of every month. It is the most up-to-date information.

What are the reasons for spending time in the ER?

There are many reasons why patients spend time in the ER. If you go to the ER :

In addition to visiting the ER, you have many other choices for receiving care for non-emergency or less urgent conditions. You can find more information about these choices in your area (e.g., walk-in clinics, urgent care centres, etc) at www.ontario.ca/healthcareoptions.



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