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Are ER waiting times hurting patients?

The first stop for most people who suddenly become very ill or are injured is the Emergency Room of an area hospital. In the Greater Toronto Area these facilities routinely provide good care to patients who arrive with all sorts of maladies. As is the case with virtually everything however, there are usually ways in which the way things are run could be improved. In the case of ERs, those changes might even save a life.

Since most people who seek medical assistance at an ER rather than making an appointment with their own doctor, do so because it is something that cannot wait a day or two before being addressed, when it comes to being seen by a health care professional, time is of the essence. To that end, 18 years ago, area ERs created wait time goals. Called the Canadian Triage and Acuity Scales, it is made up of five tiers.

Under these goals, patients are assessed and assigned a certain level. Based on that level, the recommended time frame is assigned. The levels and their recommended wait times range from immediately for the most serious cases, triaged as level 1, up to two hours for those deemed to be level 5. Unfortunately, ERs throughout the GTA are not meeting these goals.

According to the former head of the Canadian Association of Emergency physicians, the biggest reason these goals are not being met is due to overcrowding.

In some cases the failure to meet the recommended wait time will not be a big deal. Other times however, the situation can lead to serious harm, and in the worst cases, even death. When negligence is behind these injuries and deaths, it is possible financial compensation for the loss may be sought. A lawyer who handles medical malpractice lawsuits can assist with this.

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