How do emergency room wait times differ in Alberta’s 3 major cities?

An Alberta Health Services emergency department at a hospital. File/Global News

Wait times in emergency rooms (ER) often vary depending on the day of the week, time of day and even the time of year — but on average, wait times in Alberta’s emergency rooms are vastly different depending on which city you live in.

In a new study by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), wait times in the country’s major cities are stacked up against each other, and against the national average.

The study looks at two figures; the time in hours a patient waits to see a doctor upon arrival, and the number of hours a patient waits to be admitted.

Of the ERs in Alberta’s three major cities, Lethbridge comes out on top.

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Wait to see a doctor

The emergency room at the Chinook Regional Hospital, Lethbridge’s only hospital, has the shortest wait time of the province’s three major cities and one of the lowest in the country.

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The national average wait time for seeing a doctor after showing up at an emergency room is 3.1 hours.

For Lethbridge residents, the average wait is only 2.3 hours.

Calgary’s four hospital emergency room wait times also come in under the national average with a three-hour wait to see a doctor. In Edmonton, the wait is 3.6 hours on average.

The longest wait time to be seen by a doctor across the country was reported in Winnipeg at 5.1 hours.

Admission wait time

Wait times for admission are considerably higher, with the national average sitting at 32.6 hours.

Those attending emergency rooms in Edmonton have the longest wait of the province’s cities – with patients waiting an average of 38.1 hours to be admitted. That’s also one of three longest wait times in the country, according to CIHI’s report.

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Along with the shortest wait time for doctors of ERs in the three cities, Lethbridge also has the shortest wait for admission at 12.8 hours.

In Calgary, the average is lower than national but significantly higher than in Lethbridge, with patients taking on a 28-hour wait on average.

The longest average wait time across the country is in Winnipeg at 43.5 hours.

Wait time averages were not available for Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island or Newfoundland and Labrador.

LISTEN: Newstalk 770’s Rob Breakenridge chats with Kira Leeb from the Canadian Institute for Health Information about their findings


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