Statistics released by Health Quality Ontario show that Lakeridge Health Ajax Pickering Hospital ended the 2022 year recording the longest wait times in the region, in a majority of categories. Categories include length of stay, low urgency cases, and emergency wait times.
The average wait time at the Ajax Pickering site was 2.6 hours, where the Ontario average sits at two hours. Lakeridge Health Port Perry however, beat the provincial average by sitting at 1.9 hours.
Two weeks ago, Danielle Tomasino spent over seven and a half hours with her three-year-old, at Lakeridge’s Pickering Ajax Hospitals Emergency Department.
“I knew wait times were long… but I would have hoped that I would have gone in earlier with a three and a half year old,” said Tomasino.
The frustration Tomasino feels is one felt across the country, as hospitals continue to see emergency department wait times of more than five, sometimes six hours at some hospitals. Tomasino said she arrived at the hospital at 8:30 p.m., but didn’t leave until 3:45 a.m.
“At 12:30 they moved us to another room with another family waiting there, and then we sat there for another three hours, and then we got moved again,” said Tomasino. “It just feels like you’re getting closer and then you just end up having to wait again.”
According to Tomasino, the triage nurse said it wasn’t a particularly busy night, but there were patients with more serious injuries then her toddler. However, prior to coming to the ER, she said she called Telehealth, who advised her it was an emergency.
Evaluating symptoms before coming to the ER was a good call, according to Lakeridge Health’s chief of staff, Dr. Randy Wax
“If you’re sick and need the ED we want you to come in, and we will take care of you in a fast manner,” said Wax.
“But if you don’t need to, don’t come in.”
Health-care providers are encouraging patients to use alternative resources to keep the emergency departments at a manageable level, such as urgent care clinics, cold and flu clinics and virtual resources.
Wax said that aside from the pandemic and cold and flu viruses circulating, there’s many factors that have contributed to these long wait times. Staffing shortages, interrupted flow, and access to alternative care are among them, Wax said.
“If you have patients in the emergency department waiting for going into inpatient beds in the hospital… it’s important for them to flow in… but we have people who are occupying a bed that need to go to a LTC home, so we have to wait for them to move until we can bring someone up,” Wax explained.
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But Tomasino said while the wait was long, it’s very clear that staff are equally tired, and they aren’t to blame.
“All the nurses, staff and doctors were amazing,” she said “They just (need) more staff and resources to support this volume.”
There is a bright side, however, according to Wax. All four hospitals across the region are trying to tackle this long wait time issue, and he said they have made early, but great improvements.
“With our HR shortages, respiratory infections, and everything we are up against, I’m glad the wait times haven’t gone up dramatically,” said Wax. “So I think some initiatives are making a difference.”