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Improving Emergency Room Care

Archived Backgrounder

Improving Emergency Room Care

Office of the Premier

Working with Ontario's health care professionals, the McGuinty government strengthened our health care system over the last four years. There are more doctors, nurses, hospitals, prevention programs and shorter wait times for many key procedures.

In the next four years, the McGuinty government will build on the lessons learned reducing wait times elsewhere in hospitals to improve emergency room care. The emergency room is where most Ontarians make first contact with our health care system, often needing immediate attention. Long wait times only create more uncertainty to people seeking reassurance and care.

What's the situation now?

Ontario's population of more than 13 million people make about five million visits to hospital emergency rooms each year. In fact, one in five residents visit an emergency room at least once a year with many people making more than one visit. Emergency room waits are one of the top issues of concern in health care.

Emergency rooms in Ontario are seeing an increasing number of elderly patients needing complex care. Given Ontario's aging population, we need to tackle the issue now.

What is the commitment?

We want to help Ontarians avoid the need for emergency care by reducing the burden of chronic diseases and rewarding medical professionals to keep patients healthy, not just treat them when they are sick. When they do need emergency care, we will serve patients faster.

How will we do it?

Thanks to the progress we have made in the last four years, we now know how to go about reducing wait times. We will work with experts to set and meet appropriate standard performance targets and quality measures for Ontario's emergency rooms.

We will begin by measuring and reporting how long ER wait times are in hospitals across Ontario and work with experts to set appropriate targets for patient care. We will make hospitals accountable for achieving the targets in the most effective and efficient way. Work is already underway to measure wait times in the ER through the development of an Emergency Department Information System.

We will give hospitals the supports and tools they need to achieve success -- including targeted support to provide best practices, more care in the community and enhanced access to primary care for those who use the ER the most.

What's the bottom line?

Measurable and publicly reported reductions in ER wait times will be achieved.

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