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Doctor says she is apologizing to Ontario patients as wait times stay high

Emergency room doctors are again sounding the alarm in Ontario — with one even admitting she has to apologize to patients — as emergency departments fill up with people waiting to be seen.

New data from Ontario Health shows average wait times in November 2023 were roughly on par with the year before and significantly worse than early pandemic years.

“The volumes we were seeing in the emergency departments were at an all-time high,” Dr. Lisa Salamon told Global News.

“I’m carrying around my computer and going from like one patient to the next, like in the hallway… because there’s actually no place for them to go.”

An internal monthly report prepared by Ontario Health, and obtained by Global News, laid the situation bare.

In November, for example, the report shows patients who needed to be admitted from the emergency room waited up to 48 hours — or two days — to be admitted into the hospital from emergency. Ten per cent waited longer.

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Overall, 90 per cent of people spent up to 12.4 hours waiting in the emergency room more generally in November, with 10 per cent waiting longer.

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Asked about the wait times on Wednesday, Minister of Health Sylvia Jones said some of the figures were “concerning” but argued the Ford government was working to successfully improve the health care situation in Ontario.

The report suggests some areas have improved slightly from their worst points.

Under the headline “Bottleneck,” the report found the amount of time for a patient to be taken from an ambulance and triaged into the hospital decreased 11 per cent year-on-year in November, though 10 per cent waited longer than 83 minutes.

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The figures are a 63-per cent increase from just over a decade ago in 2010, the report said.

Jones said the problem wasn’t just about dollars.

“This is not a money investment conversation or challenge,” the health minister said.

Opposition parties jumped on her remarks, arguing that under-investment was exactly the problem Ontario faces.

“I found that a really, really strange statement,” Ontario NDP MPP Peter Tabuns said.

“Nurses, PSWs, others have been very clear that they’re not paid properly, that they’re not treated with respect.”

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Ontario Liberal health critic Adil Shamji said Jones was “doing damage control” at her event Wednesday.

“Minister Jones stated that the crisis in Ontario’s emergency rooms was ‘not a money, investment conversation or challenge,’” Shamji said. “I beg to differ.”

Despite the waiting times, the report found the overall number of patients reporting to Ontario’s emergency rooms in November was down around six per cent compared to last year.

Dr. Salamon said delays had got to the point she was apologizing to patients.

“It’s not my fault, but I feel very badly for them,” she said. “And I want them to know that we recognize that this is the problem. This isn’t ideal.”

— with files from Global News’ Caryn Lieberman

&© 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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