New Brunswick

Emergency room walk-away rate too high, medical society says

The New Brunswick Medical Society says the number of patients leaving emergency rooms after waiting for hours without seeing a doctor is rising at an alarming rate.

Up to 18 per cent of patients leave Moncton ER after waiting up to 7 hours without being seen

Dr. Serge Melanson is concerned about growing numbers of patients who get discouraged by wait times and leave emergency rooms without receiving care. (CBC)

The New Brunswick Medical Society says the number of patients leaving emergency rooms after waiting for hours without seeing a doctor is rising at an alarming rate.

Dr. Serge Melanson, an emergency room doctor at the Moncton Hospital and president of the society, said up to 18 per cent of people leave the Moncton ER after waiting up to seven hours without being seen.

"I suspect people are tired of waiting four, five, six and seven hours and are leaving our department and taking their chances out in the community," Melanson said.

Melanson said the rate of people leaving without being seen has increased in recent years, and he's concerned the hospital is not meeting its benchmarks.

"That trend usually indicates that the hospital, and the emergency department specifically, is doing something worse in respect to getting people through their experience in the ER department."

He said one third of ER patients who leave after not being seen are actually people who require emergency medical care that cannot be managed by other channels of the health care system.

It's not just a problem at the Moncton Hospital, but one the society is seeing in emergency rooms across the province.

Melanson said Moncton has tried implementing programs to get people who can seek care elsewhere to do so, rather than go to the ER, but it has seen only modest success.

He said solutions need to come from various areas, including citizen education, improving access to primary care and improving the way the province does long-term care to free up hospital beds.

CBC News requested interviews with Horizon Health, Vitalité and the Department of Health. 

Vitalité declined to comment on Wednesday and Health Minister Ted Flemming was not made available. Horizon was unable to provide an interview Wednesday.

With files from Harry Forestell

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