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In emergency rooms, Canadians play the waiting game
Emergency
According to a survey by The Star, Canadians have the longest ER wait times across the developed world. One in 10 Canadian patients will wait eight hours in the emergency room before being examined, although four hours is the average wait time for most Canadians, the survey found. - photo by istockphoto.com

According to The Associated Press, the Ottawa Hospital in Canada received three patients with gunshot wounds Wednesday morning from a reported shooting at the National War Memorial at Parliament Hill in downtown Ottawa.

The hospital told the AP two of the victims are in stable condition but would not comment on the third, a soldier shot at the War Memorial. All three were admitted to the emergency room at the Ottawa Hospital.

The shooting -- and other mass shootings like it, which are rare in Canada -- bring a troubling issue for Canadians back to the forefront: emergency-room wait times.

According to a survey by The Star, Canadians have the longest ER wait times across the developed world. One in 10 Canadian patients will wait eight hours in the emergency room before being examined, although four hours is the average wait time for most Canadians, the survey found. The Globe and Mail also said 10 percent of Canadians will sometimes wait 27 hours for a bed.

Canadians wait longer in the ER because of the country’s universal health care system, which offers free emergency-room care, according to The Atlantic’s Olga Khazan. Many Canadians would rather get more immediate results by waiting in line for hours at the ER than scheduling an appointment with a specialist, which could take weeks to months, Khazan wrote.

“Canadians might be headed to emergency departments because wait times for regular doctors are too long,” Khazan wrote. “But on the other hand, it’s free for patients -- so, some might wonder, why not use it if it’s there?”

While emergency-room care is free for Canadian patients, many citizens may actually prefer to consult their family doctors, who have more intimate knowledge of their medical history, instead, according to a survey from The College of Family Physicians of Canada.

Dr. Howard Ovens, the director of the emergency center at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, told The Globe and Mail that Canada needs to establish nationwide health care guidelines to help cut down on wait times. Right now, Canada’s hospitals operate by province.

“We’re flying blind,” Ovens said. “I can’t say how many patients are experiencing waits that are much longer than what we call for.”

Canadian emergency rooms have worked to lessen the lines by establishing wait time goals and working to better prioritize the medical issues that come through, Kathleen Morris of The Canadian Institute of Health Information said to The Star.

“The concept of identifying priorities, setting targets and publicly measuring progress has been very successful,” Morris said to The Star. “And those factors could be successful in reducing (emergency-room) waits.”

Email: hscribner@deseretdigital.com, Twitter: @herbscribner