Queensway Carleton Hospital sees long wait times in emergency department due to high patient volumes

The Queensway Carleton Hospital warns patients may face longer waits in the emergency department this week as it deals with an influx in patients.

And the chief of the emergency department warns there is no “light at the end of the tunnel” to alleviate challenges in the emergency department as hospitals face the start of the flu season and staffing challenges.

The hospital in Ottawa’s west end reported wait times of up to five hours in the emergency department Wednesday evening, as it was operating at 113 per cent occupancy with 29 patients admitted to hospital without a bed.

“At this current time, the reason for the wait time is our significant pressures for overcapacity and admitted patients,” QCH Emergency Department Chief and Medical Director Dr. Adam Nicholson told CTV News Ottawa.

“This morning, we had 29 admitted patients waiting without a bed upstairs or in the inpatient units and to give a clear picture we only have 19 observation beds in our department.”

The Queensway Carleton Hospital says wait times in the emergency department are around two hours on an average day, but were up to eight hours on Tuesday night.

Dr. Nicholson said the emergency department is seeing a “significant amount of respiratory infections included influenza, strokes, heart attacks, and some COVID-19 patients.

“Wait time alert: We are currently seeing a high volume of patients admitted to hospital and in our emergency department,” the Queensway Carleton Hospital said on Twitter.

“Unfortunately, wait times are likely to be higher than usual. Please know, the team is working hard to deliver quality care for every patient who comes through our door. We know this is frustrating for you and your loved ones. We really appreciate your patience and support.”

Nicholson says the beginning of flu season and staffing challenges could lead to longer wait times in the emergency department through the fall.

“I would love to give you an easy solution to that question but unfortunately, I do not see any easy solutions or light at the end of the tunnel any time soon,” Nicholson said Wednesday afternoon.

“I feel like this might just be the beginning of the next few months and there’s going to be some serious strain going through and the unfortunate side effect is that patients will suffer with longer wait times and nursing and frontline staff will suffer because they’re going to be strained and stressed to provide that kind of care.”

Several Ottawa hospitals are dealing with long waits in the emergency department this fall due to high patient volumes and staffing challenges. CHEO shared a video last week showing staff trying to juggle patients and staffing levels to keep its pediatric intensive care unit open.

The Queensway Carleton Hospital says other options for non-emergency medical care include a walk-in clinic or your family doctor.

“The reality is we’re going to be seeing people in hallways and seeing people and really sick patients in places we’re not used to seeing them and so there’s going to be a strain and, unfortunately, I don’t see a quick solution any time soon,” Nicholson said.

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