Cross Country Checkup·Sunday on Checkup

What's happening inside emergency rooms across Canada right now?

Staff calling in sick, shortages of doctors and nurses, patients with more severe illnesses and a backlog of surgeries due to the COVID-19 pandemic are all driving factors for the delays.

How are wait times affecting you? Call us: 1-888-416-8333

A red 'Emergency' sign is seen over the doorway of a red-brick hospital building.
Emergency rooms are stressed across the country. How has it affected you? (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Hospitals across Canada are struggling, leading to longer wait times in emergency rooms as health-care systems face a variety of challenges, medical professionals say.

Dr. Brian Goldman, an emergency room physician in Toronto and host of CBC Radio's White Coat, Black Art, says those challenges are a variety of issues — some chronic, such as an inadequate number of hospital beds.

"Whenever you have an excess number of patients admitted to the wards, it means that patients who are on stretchers in the emergency department waiting to be admitted to those beds are going to have to wait," he said. "Sometimes it's been as low as two or three hours and it can extend to days now."

But now, Goldman says, hospitals are also facing a shortage of doctors and nurses, admitting patients with more severe illnesses and dealing with a backlog of surgeries due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

What's happening inside ERs across Canada right now? How are wait times affecting you? Cross Country Checkup host Ian Hanomansing will take your calls on CBC Radio One and CBC News Network. Goldman is also on hand to answer your questions.

Paul-Émile Cloutier, CEO of HealthCareCAN, an organization that represents health organizations and hospitals, said burnout and staff shortages were getting worse in an interview with CBC News earlier this month.

"The system is bleeding people at all levels, and it's not just the [intensive care unit] or the emergency, it's across the board," he said. "It's like sleepwalking into a catastrophe."

In March, Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos announced $2 billion from the federal government to support provinces and territories in clearing health-care backlogs caused by the pandemic.

Tell us what you think: Call Checkup at 1-888-416-8333, send an email or find us on Facebook and Twitter.

Plus, CBC's Duncan McCue will answer your calls and questions about his new podcast, Kuper Island, which examines the dark history of one of Canada's most notorious residential schools.

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