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Manitobans average longest wait in emergency rooms: survey

Manitobans have some of the longest waits for service in hospital emergency departments in Canada, a new national study suggests.

The Canadian Institute for Health Information survey measured lengths of stay for persons visiting emergency departments last year in seven provinces and the Yukon.

Whether their health condition was deemed urgent or not, Manitobans had the longest stays in emergency departments among the provinces surveyed. They also faced the longest waits in emergency before being admitted to hospital, when that was required.

In urgent or emergency cases, the median time spent in a Manitoba emergency department was 4.7 hours, compared with a national average of 3.1 hours. The next longest stay was in Saskatchewan at 3.8 hours.

Those who wound up being admitted to hospital waited a median of 12 hours in Manitoba, compared with a national average of 8.8 hours.

Provinces participating in the survey included: Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. The Yukon also participated.

Across Canada, nine out of 10 patients were in and out of an emergency department within 7.4 hours or less last year, according to the CIHI survey.

Agnita Pal, manager of clinical administrative databases for CIHI, cautioned that only about 50 per cent of emergency department visits in Manitoba were captured in the survey.

Meanwhile, CIHI said slightly more than half the emergency department visits across the country last year — 55 per cent — were for more severe health issues (Levels 1-3 under the Canadian Triage and Acuity Scale).

The top three reasons Canadians visited a hospital emergency department last year were for abdominal or pelvic pain, throat and chest pain, and acute upper respiratory infection.

People with serious conditions spent more time in the ED than those who arrived with less urgent conditions.

When people arrive at an ED, they are triaged based on the type and severity of their medical signs and symptoms and are categorized from Level 1 (resuscitation) to Level 5 (non-urgent).

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