Winnipeg hospitals claim the title for having the longest emergency room wait times in the country, a newly released report says.

According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), Concordia Hospital posted the longest ER wait times across the nation in 2014-15 with about 10% of visitors waiting longer than seven hours before being assessed by a physician. The national average for the same period was 3.1 hours.

Out of the nearly 200 hospitals for which data were gathered, all of Winnipeg's six hospitals were ranked in the top 12.

90th percentile wait times for WRHA hospitals (2014-15):

  • Concordia Hospital (ranked 1st): 7 hours
  • St. Boniface General Hospital (ranked 2nd): 6.9 hours
  • Victoria General Hospital (ranked 3rd): 6.4 hours
  • Grace Hospital (ranked 5th): 6.3 hours
  • Health Sciences Centre (ranked 9th): 4.8 hours
  • Seven Oaks General Hospital (ranked 12th): 4.6 hours

How are "wait times" defined?

CIHI defines wait times as the total elapsed time between the time the patient entering the ER registers with a triage nurse and the time a physician begins an initial assessment of the patient. Rather than use average wait times, CIHI measure how long it takes top 90% of visitors to the ER to be examined by a physician -- the 90th percentile.

More work needs to be done, WRHA

"The results are disappointing. We certainly recognize the wait times in our departments are too long and we need to improve those and have been focusing on doing that," said Lori Lamont, vice-president and chief nursing officer for the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.

She did note that one hospital in particular has made significant improvements. Prior to this release, the Grace Hospital in St. James had been ranked worst in the country four years running. The Grace Hospital's wait time this year of seven hours is a significant drop since CIHI began reporting on ER wait times. In 2012-12, their ER patients in the 90th percentile waited over 9.1 hours.

"We've been doing some focused work with the Grace on improving things not only within the emergency department, but also in their inpatient beds to create the capacity to make those moves out of the emergency departments," Lamont said.

The WRHA says that although the manner in which each region calculates wait times across the country are relatively standardized some degree of variation does exist.

Overall performance above average

"We perform as well or better on 20 of the 26 system indicators that are reported," Lamont said.

The report notes that the WRHA has reduced the use of anti-psychotics drugs in personal care homes to levels consistent with the national average and also that the number of re-admission due to mental illness have improved since last year.

"It gives us an indication that some of the community supports we've got in place are being effective in keeping people in the community and not having them return," she said.

CIHI says the goal of publishing these results is to support efforts to improve care within the health care system and to give the public a better understanding of how their community health care programs compare to those in other regions in the country.