Heading to the ER? Check out wait times first at Kitchener hospitals

May 6th, 2014

Waterloo Region Record

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Heading to the ER? Check out wait times first at Kitchener hospitals

By Jeff Outhit

WATERLOO REGION — In a first for Ontario you can now go online to see how long you might have to wait at two local emergency rooms.

Grand River Hospital has activated its own clock on wait times, following St. Mary’s General Hospital, which deployed its clock in 2012.

The clocks tell you how many patients are currently being seen, how many are waiting to be seen, and estimate how long you will wait to be seen by a doctor or nurse.

Hospitals say this should help patients decide which emergency room to visit, or whether to visit an ER at all.

The data is automatically refreshed using technology developed by a local firm. It’s estimated that 90 per cent of patients will see a doctor or nurse by the estimated time.

For example, at 4 p.m. Monday Grand River estimated a wait time of three hours, while St. Mary’s estimated a wait time of five hours.

Grand River was treating 20 patients in emergency with seven people waiting. St. Mary’s was treating 30 patients in emergency with 11 people waiting.

The clocks further estimate how long you’ll wait later in the day. There’s information about urgent care and walk-in clinics that are alternatives to emergency rooms.

“We are pleased that Grand River Hospital has taken this initiative, giving patients in the community a real-time picture of what’s happening in each department so that they can choose the care provider — emergency department, urgent care, or walk-in clinic — that best suits their needs,” St. Mary’s president Don Shilton said in a statement.

Grand River Hospital has the largest local emergency room. It says it’s reducing wait times through a number of steps.

These include speeding the assignment of emergency patients to hospital beds and using an emergency physician at times to help assess arrivals. This is meant to reduce the number of patients who leave without being seen.

Local firm Oculys developed the technology used in ER clocks. “Kitchener-Waterloo is now the first region in Ontario to have access to (ER) wait times for two local hospitals,” company president Franck Hivert said in a statement.

You can find the Grand River ER clock through www.grhosp.on.ca and you can find the St. Mary’s ER clock through www.smgh.ca.