The Ontario government is being urged to provide an update on its plans to stabilize health care in the province in light of “damning evidence” in a leaked report showing wait times in hospital emergency rooms are continuing to increase.
The latest Ontario Health data, dated Nov. 1 and provided to executives and emergency department chiefs, was released by the Ontario Liberal Party on Wednesday.
“No matter how you look at this data, whether it month over month, or a year over a year, health-care performance is continuing its dramatic nosedive and unfortunately is now in freefall,” MPP Dr. Adil Shamji told reporters at a news conference.
“September was much worse than August and this September was much worse than last September. In fact, this was the worst September on record extending all the way back to 2008.”
According to the Ontario Health report, there was an average of about 946 patients waiting for a hospital bed in an emergency room across the province at 8 a.m. daily in the month of September. In August, that number was just under 884.
The September data represents an increase of about 44.7 per cent compared to September 2021.
“I think back to my most recent days in the emergency department when we have a day that’s particularly slammed, and patients are waiting for an inpatient bed and there isn’t one, and so they occupy acute care beds in our emergency department that are designated for new patients,” Shamji said.
“And when there aren’t spaces for new patients be assessed, managed and treated. They move into unconventional spaces.”
Average wait times for patients being admitted to an Ontario hospital from an emergency room reached record levels in September.
According to data by Health Quality Ontario (HQO), patients spent an average of 21.3 hours in an emergency room waiting to be admitted.
This is up from 20.7 hours in August and 20.8 hours in July. It also represents the highest average wait time for hospital admissions from Ontario ERs in the last year, according to HQO.
Data before September 2021 is not available.
In September 2022, HQO data shows 23 per cent of patients were admitted within the provincial target time of eight hours.
A Health Quality Ontario report for September 2022 shows the average length of stay in an ER for patients admitted to hospital.
The wait times decrease significantly for patients who do not need to be admitted. HQO data shows about 89 per cent of high-urgency patients not admitted to hospital finished their ER visits within eight hours.
Low-urgency patients who didn’t need to be admitted spent an average of 3.1 hours in the ER. The provincial targets for low-urgency patients is four hours and about 75 per cent of patients completed their emergency room visit within that time.
The Ontario Health report, meanwhile, suggests that about nine out of 10 Ontario residents seeking hospital treatment in an emergency room waited up to 45.2 hours for a bed, a 40.5 per cent increase from September 2021.
In addition, the report shows that 90 per cent of patients not being admitted stayed in the ER for up to 12 hours, a 17.1 per cent increase compared to September 2021.
Ambulance offload times jumped by about 52.5 per cent in the last year, according to the report. This means that patients waited about 90 minutes before entering a hospital in September, up from 83 minutes in August.
The new data comes months after the government first released its new plan to stabilize the health-care system after the pandemic. The plan, which was announced in August, included an investment in private clinic surgeries, a pledge to add up to 6,000 new health-care workers and Bill 7—legislation that allows hospitals to transfer patients waiting for a long-term care home spot to a home not of their choosing or serve them a daily $400 fee.
The idea was to free up hospital beds for acute care patients who need them.
Shamji suggested Wednesday that Premier Doug Ford and Health Minister Sylvia Jones need to “come clean about the state of (Ontario’s) health-care system.”
“They need to update us on their progress with a plan to stay open. They need to stop saying that everything is okay,” he said. “The state of our health-care system is plummeting and this government is in complete denial. This is a dangerous thing.”
The Liberals added that Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health should be encouraging vaccinations and masking as the province heads into respiratory illness season.
“Whatever the situation in our health-care system, barring some sort of dramatic change from the government, it will deteriorate. It would not surprise me if we end up in a situation where we’re masking everywhere,” he said, adding that Dr. Kieran Moore has the choice to increase masking, vaccinations, ventilation and the number of hospital beds to help with this burden. “Dr. Moore has all of these choices and can pick whichever one he wants. “
“The easiest one for him to implement would be measures that encourage dramatically higher masking.
When asked for comment, a spokesperson for the Minister of Health reiterated the government’s pledge to add up to 6,000 more health-care workers and free up 2,500 hospital beds.
“Our government is not okay with the status quo, we know there is more work to do,” Alexandra Adamo said. “That is why we will continue to work with our health system partners to continue to address the pressures of today and prepare for the future so that all Ontarians can receive the health care they need and deserve.”
Adamo said the province has already seen a decline in its surgical backlog between April 2022 and the fall of 2022.
No comments were provided regarding the increase in emergency room wait times.