Quebec makes dent in notoriously long ER wait times

A report by Quebec's health and welfare commissioner says the province has made progress in its efforts to reduce wait times and make emergency rooms more efficient.

20 hospitals cut wait times but 35% of adult patients still wait 5 hours or more for care

Quebec's departing health commissioner, Robert Salois, found 20 Quebec hospitals have dramatically improved ER wait times, but 35 per cent of adult patients still wait five hours or more. (CBC)

A report by Quebec's health and welfare commissioner says the province has made some progress in its efforts to create more efficient emergency rooms.

The report, released today, found that 20 hospitals in Quebec have dramatically reduced their wait times.

However, patients might feel the improvement is incremental, in a province where 35 per cent of patients still wait five hours or more for care, compared to 15 per cent in Ontario and five per cent in the United States and Germany, according to the report.

No political will?

Health commissioner Robert Salois describes the province's emergency rooms as chronically overcrowded and accuses the authorities of lacking the leadership and will to tackle the problem.

The report found that in the last year, 1.5 million emergency room visits surpassed the maximum wait time set by the Health Ministry – amounting to 13 million excess hours spent waiting for care.

After examining the hospitals that have done the best job of reducing wait times, Salois says he has found a "recipe" to build on their success.

He says the most efficient emergency rooms put patients first, organizing the hospital in order to have beds available for emergencies and establishing a direct link to health clinics to refer less urgent cases.

The report includes nine recommendations, including an increased role for nurses.

This is the health and welfare commissioner's last report  — Quebec Health Minister Gaëtan Barrette is abolishing the office and Salois's position when Salois retires this summer.

Read the full report here: PDF link (French only)

With files from Catou McKinnon and the Canadian Press