Wait times at Ontario hospitals climbed to record high this summer, data shows

Patients spent an average of 16.3 hours waiting in emergency rooms last June, according to new data from Health Quality Ontario

Premier Doug Ford has pledged to end 'hallway medicine' by July 2020

A bed stretcher in a hall. People in scrubs can be seen walking down the hall.
Emergency room waiting times have risen steadily over the last year, setting a new record in June. (hxdbzxy/Shutterstock)

Average wait times at Ontario hospitals set a new June record this summer, according to recent data from Health Quality Ontario.

In June 2019, patients spent an average of 16.3 hours waiting in emergency rooms, up from an average of 14.4 hours last June.

The numbers also show that just 34 per cent of patients were admitted to hospital from the emergency room within the province's target time of eight hours. Patients waited an average of 1.6 hours before being assessed by a doctor.

Health Quality Ontario is the provincial agency mandated to assist the Ontario government and health care providers through advice and health care data.

Premier Doug Ford has made so-called "hallway medicine" a major focus since he took office in June 2018, and the issue has plagued Ontario hospitals for years.

During his first year as premier, Ford created an 11-person panel tasked with reducing hospital wait times, ending hallway medicine and introducing other major reforms.

This July, Ford promised that hallway medicine, in which people are treated in areas not appropriate for patient care, would be eliminated within one year.

"Over the next year we won't have anyone in the hallways," he said during a meeting of Canada's premiers.

However, Health Minister Christine Elliott later downplayed that pledge and said solving the problem could take more time.

Average wait times in Ontario peaked at 18.3 hours during the height of flu season in January 2019.

In June, the Greater Niagara General Hospital had the longest average wait time at 37.3 hours.

The four-bed Lion's Head Hospital in rural Bruce Peninsula had the shortest average wait time at 3.6 hours.