Video answers question why wait times are so long at Oakville, Milton, Halton Hills hospitals

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Published May 22, 2024 at 5:50 pm

Ontario, Oakville, Milton, hospital, Emergency Room, wait times,
Halton Healthcare is working with community partners to open up hospital beds and lower wait times in hospital emergency rooms.

There’s little more frustrating than having to wait to be treated in the Emergency Room (ER) at your hospital in Oakville, Milton, or Halton Hills.

You’re hurt or sick and not feeling well at all and emergency seems like anything but when you’re waiting around, often hours, for someone to come and help you.

Wait times in ERs seem to be getting longer and longer and Halton Healthcare President and CEO Melissa Farell, along with Dr. Paul Kerim Zalzal and Dr. Bradley Spencer Weening, have put together an online video to answer why that is happening.

“Often people think that the waits in emerge have to do with inappropriate patients showing up in emergency who could be treated elsewhere,” Farrell said in the video when asked by Dr. Zalzal why wait times are so long. “That’s part of it, for sure, so there’s definitely a patient population that could be going to primary care, seeing their family doctor, but it’s largely to do with the fact that the front door is open, but the back door is closed.

“It’s flow. It has to do with us being able to transport patients who no longer need hospital related care out to more appropriate settings like long-term care and home care.”

According to Health Quality Ontario, a provincial agency that monitors healthcare standards, the average wait time in Ontario from the time the patient checks in to an ER to when they are first assessed by a doctor or nurse average 2.1 hours.

A result of what Halton Healthcare medical officials say is in large part a result of hospital overcrowding.

“You come into the emergency room with an issue, then you may be discharged home or you may have to be admitted,” said Dr. Zalzal. “If you have to be admitted to the hospital, there has to be a bed in the hospital for you to go to. However, often, that bed in the hospital is occupied by a patient that no longer needs to be in the hospital but can’t go anywhere else because they need an alternate level of care.”

What the biggest hang up is?

“In our province, one in six beds is (taken) by a patient who is considered what’s called alternate levels of care so they could be more appropriately cared for in an alternate setting,” Farrell said.

Most people might think that they can easily be looked after in the ER while waiting for a hospital bed, but that’s not the case.

“Well, no is the first answer,” said Dr. Weening. “That now requires nursing care, doctor care. Those people are now pulled away from the new people who are waiting in line to get seen and hopefully discharged with something that can get treated more readily.”

That can lead to frustration. The patient is feeling it, so too are doctors and hospital staff. The good news is there’s hope as there are strategies to deal with the problem.

“There are opportunities for us to be working with our community partners to make that situation better,” said Farrell. “There’s lots of work going on to help us support patients getting homecare more effectively and efficiently outside of hospitals and we’re doing tons of work here.

“And then, of course, there’s always things that we can be doing in the emergency too. Making sure we’re posting our wait times online, making sure that we have fast tract processes for patients, so there’s tons of work we are doing to try to make that situation better.”

They are already seeing improvement, says Farell.

“Absolutely, it’s getting a lot better,” she said. “It’s certainly better than what it was during the pandemic, for sure, and we’re really seeing our wait times come down.”

While waiting in the ER can be frustrating, Dr. Weening reminds the public not to take their frustrations out on ER staff.

“These are the critical folks who are working so hard to deal with the people there,” he said. “The line is not there because they’re not doing their job, it’s because they’re doing three different jobs and seeing twice as many patients as they need to because they’re simply not the space for the reasons we mentioned.

“Please, send them love and not anger and range.”

Just keep in mind that the wait times aren’t a result of the staff.

“We get it. If you’re feeling crummy, that’s when you’re in the emerge. You’re sick, your hurt, or something and it’s easy to get angry and take it out on the people around you,” said Dr. Zalzal. “We’re just saying it’s not their fault. Right now, it’s a bigger problem with blocking the outflow from the emerge and not the inflow, so keep that in mind.”

Regardless of wait times and overcrowded rooms, Farell encourages those who need emergency care to not hesitate in visiting the ER.

“Please come if you need help,” she said. “If you need emergency care help, come to emerge. We don’t want to turn anybody away inappropriately. If you need care and you think you need to come, come.”

“Remember, you are in charge of your own healthcare,” added Dr. Zalzal.

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