More than half of British Columbians who’ve landed in the hospital emergency room in the last six months say they’ve faced unacceptable wait times, according to a new poll.
The survey, conducted by pollster Leger in collaboration with the Vancouver Sun, aimed to put numbers to the recent concerns making headlines about the province’s health-care system.
“All those anecdotal stories of horror stories in the ER room, how extensive are those experiences and how many British Columbians are actually going through those worst case scenarios,” Leger executive vice-president Steve Mossop explained.
Overall, the poll found British Columbians split on their view of the province’s health-care system, with 50 per cent saying it was in good or very good condition, and 46 per cent saying it was in poor or very poor shape.
But among the poll’s more troubling findings: 55 per cent of respondents rated both the total length of time they waited to be treated and the wait time before seeing a doctor as “poor” or “very poor.”
“It’s pretty clear-cut,” Mossop said.
“When you have 55 per cent of people who have been to the ER in the last six months that say the wait times are unacceptable, that’s a significant number.”
The poll also found a large number of British Columbians would consider leaving Canada to access health care, with 23 per cent saying they’d consider it for a surgery, 25 per cent saying they’d consider it for dental work and 26 per cent saying they’d consider it for other diagnostic work or procedures.
Mossop said the polling suggested no quick fix to the ER problems, either.
A large part of the issue, he said, is people attending emergency rooms because they lack access to a family doctor or timely care at a walk-in clinic. About 30 per cent of respondents said they’d used an ER for this reason, he said.
Daniel Fontaine, a consultant who has worked a variety of jobs in politics and as an advocate for long-term care providers said given the size of the health-care system, making major changes quickly to satisfy patients and voters likely isn’t realistic.
“If you’re referring to whether they can do it before the next election I would say they’ll be extremely challenged to do that,” he said.
But while the current NDP government is stuck with the challenge, Fontaine said the problems go back more than a decade and have built up at the hands of both of B.C.’s major parties.
Health Minister Adrian Dix has maintained his government is focused on cutting the Gordian Knot of the province’s health-care crisis.
“We know that the answers that are often felt in the emergency room are really an expression of the need for more community care, the need for long-term care and better primary care,” Dix said Wednesday, in announcing an expansion at the beleaguered Surrey Memorial Hospital.
Despite the findings on ER wait times, Mossop said the poll wasn’t all bad news when it came to British Columbians’ perceptions of their emergency care.
Six in 10 respondents said their overall experience in the emergency room was good or very good, while just under four in 10 said it was poor or very poor.
Seventy-six per cent said their quality of care was good or very good, and 72 per cent said their ultimate health outcomes were good.
The Leger poll was conducted online between June 2 and June 5 of 1,000 adult British Columbians, with results weighted using data from the 2021 census. For comparison purposes only, a similarly sized randomized sample of 1,000 respondents would have a margin of error of +/- 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.