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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

‘Waiting 20 hours’: Overwhelmed ERs causing patients to suffer, CMA says

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Canadian emergency rooms are facing overwhelming challenges, leaving patients waiting for more than 20 hours to receive care. The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) issued a warning, emphasizing the urgent need for systemic changes to address staffing shortages, overcrowding, and the lack of access to team-based primary care.

In a statement, the CMA highlighted the crisis in emergency departments across the country, particularly during the heart of cold and flu season. President of the CMA, Kathleen Ross, expressed deep concern about long wait times, increasing surges in respiratory illnesses, and staffing shortages making it difficult for Canadians to access urgent care.

Kathleen Ross: “We have to take into account that physicians and nurses working in these departments are also susceptible to illnesses, and we are facing increased staffing shortages.”

The CMA stressed that emergency rooms should not substitute walk-in clinics or family doctors and called for solutions to address the ongoing primary care crisis in Canada.

A survey by the CMA in August revealed that one in five Canadians doesn’t have a family doctor, leading many to seek care in emergency rooms, exacerbating the issue of overcrowding. With emergency rooms over capacity and rates of influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) on the rise, the situation is becoming increasingly critical.

Kathleen Ross: “This crisis across Canada, with sustained pressures, sustained challenges with staffing and increased numbers of respiratory illnesses… is also contributing to a situation that is clearly unsustainable and quite frankly, dangerous.”

The CMA proposed transformative changes to rebuild Canada’s health-care system, urging investments in team-based primary care. This approach involves collaboration among health-care professionals to provide comprehensive and patient-centered care.

Kathleen Ross: “It is critically important at this time that governments across the country work together and sign on to the bilateral agreements that we heard about over the last year. Get additional dollars on the table.”

The CMA emphasized the need for all provinces to sign on to bilateral health-care funding agreements and called for swift action to improve the healthcare system.

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