Large variations in how long admitted patients wait in emergency rooms for hospital beds

    Waits tend to be longer for older patients, during the day, and on

    OTTAWA, Oct. 18 /CNW Telbec/ - Most patients admitted to an acute care
hospital for reasons other than childbirth come through Canada's emergency
departments (60% outside Quebec), and the length of time these patients wait
for hospital beds varies greatly, according to a new report by the Canadian
Institute for Health Information (CIHI). The report found that in 2005, half
of all patients admitted to hospital through Canada's emergency departments
(EDs) waited 1.7 hours or less for hospital beds once the decision to admit
had been made, while the rest had longer waits. For example, the 10% of
patients with the shortest waits were transferred immediately to acute care
beds; the 10% with the longest waits waited 15.1 hours or more.
    Understanding Emergency Department Wait Times: Access to Inpatient Beds
and Patient Flow is the third in a three-report series examining factors
associated with the length of time patients spend in EDs. Every year,
Canadians make 14 million visits to EDs-with more than one million patients
being admitted to hospital as a result. Based on 277 hospitals outside of
Quebec-which collect wait time data in a similar fashion-this latest report
provides new insight on the length of time patients spend in the ED from the
moment a physician decides to admit a patient to hospital from the ED to the
moment that the patient is transferred into an acute care bed.
    "Experts suggest that the smooth transfer of patients to hospital beds
helps to avoid emergency room crowding and ensure appropriate care for
incoming patients with urgent medical needs," says Greg Webster, CIHI's
Director of Research and Indicator Development. "By measuring how long
emergency department patients are waiting for acute care beds, this report
offers fresh insight on the factors associated with shorter and longer waits."

    Condition and age of patient, timing of ED visit, among factors
    associated with longer waits

    In 2005, 4% of patients admitted to hospital through Canada's EDs waited
more than 24 hours for acute care beds. CIHI's study found these patients
tended to be older and have multiple health problems. They also had longer
average lengths of stay in hospital after leaving the ED.
    Other factors associated with longer waits for access to hospital beds
include the time of day, the day of the week and the month of a patient's
visit to an ED. For example, in large community and teaching hospitals, ED bed
wait times were typically longer during the day, on weekdays and from November
to March.
    "Waiting in the emergency department for inpatient beds can be hard for
patients and their families," says Dr. Michael Schull, Emergency Department
Physician at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto. "Research shows
that many factors outside of the emergency department, such as how inpatient
services are organized and access to care beyond the hospital's walls, can
affect how long patients wait for beds."

    Waits generally longer in larger hospitals

    CIHI's report found that in 2005 the waits in the ED for access to acute
care beds, once the decisions to admit had been made, varied considerably by
hospital type, ranging from median waits of 18 minutes in small community
hospitals with up to 49 beds, to 2.1 hours in larger community hospitals with
200 or more beds, to 2.3 hours in teaching hospitals. (The median is the point
at which half of all patients had shorter waits and half had longer waits.)
For some patients in larger community and teaching hospitals, the waits were
much longer. For example, 5% of these patients waited more than 24 hours for
acute care beds, compared to about 1% of patients in small hospitals.

    About CIHI

    The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) collects and
analyzes information on health and health care in Canada and makes it publicly
available. Canada's federal, provincial and territorial governments created
CIHI as a not-for-profit, independent organization dedicated to forging a
common approach to Canadian health information. CIHI's goal: to provide
timely, accurate and comparable information. CIHI's data and reports inform
health policies, support the effective delivery of health services and raise
awareness among Canadians of the factors that contribute to good health.

    The report and the following figures and tables are available from CIHI's
website, at

    Figure 1.  Distribution of Bed Wait Time by Hospital Type (adapted from
               Figure 6 in report)

    Figure 2.  Percentile Distribution of Bed Wait Time by Hospital Type
               (adapted from Figure 7 in report)

    Figure 3.  Median Bed Wait Time by Season and Hospital Type (Figure 9 in

For further information:

For further information: Media contacts: Christina Lawand, (613)
241-7860 ext. 4310, Cell: (613) 299-5695,; Leona
Hollingsworth, (613) 241-7860 ext. 4140, Cell: (613) 612-3914,

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