Maybe the estimated wait time at Delta Hospital’s emergency department will be long compared to another facility, or perhaps you’re better off going to Delta’s ER after all.
The Fraser Health Authority (FHA) has announced the launch of a new information system about average wait times for care at hospital ERs across its region.
Noting it recognizes that some patients and their loved ones are experiencing longer-than-usual wait times, which can be frustrating, the health region says the new information will help patients and families make informed decisions about accessing care. The estimates help demonstrate how long it may take to see a physician and the expected length of stay in an ER.
The health region says over the past fiscal year, it has seen a seven per cent increase in ER visits compared to pre-pandemic levels. By providing information about wait times and expected length of stay, the FHA says it hopes to improve the experience for patients and their families by reducing uncertainty and anxiety.
Dr. Craig Murray, regional medical director of emergency medicine, told the Optimist people can choose to travel to another ER that may have less of a waiting time if their case is non-life-threatening, but people should also keep in mind situations can change at an ER.
“I think it’s really about giving the public as much information as we can provide, and they can make educated choices. Obviously, the overriding principle in emergency departments is if you have a life-threatening illness, you should be calling 9-1-1 and be taken to the nearest hospital, but, for less severe things people can get themselves to an emergency department safely, there is value in having some choices,” he said.
“The public in B.C. pays for the health care system, so I think the public in B.C. have the right to have a sense of what wait times might be like in emergency departments.”
Noting Vancouver Coastal Health has had a similar system for several years, Murray said people have already been choosing to go to different hospitals that are not the closest to them based on perceptions, but now they can make a more educated guess.
Delta Hospital’s ER has 10 acute beds, 10 observation beds, three ambulance bays, plus two negative pressure rooms, two fast track chairs and a trauma room providing 24 hours, seven days a week service.
Murray said while he doesn’t have numbers on how many visits the Delta ER has seen this year, it’s safe to say increases in ER visits have occurred at all FHA hospitals.
Fraser Health is encouraging people to familiarize themselves with the average wait times dashboard.
Patients with an injury or illness that requires urgent medical attention, but is non-life-threatening, can also call the Fraser Health Virtual Care Line at 1-800-314-0999 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.