Emergency Department – Why am I waiting?

Emergency Department at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre
Emergency Department at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre.

Over 300 patients visit the Emergency Department at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre every day. Despite being one of the busiest Emergency Departments in the province, our wait times are lower than most other hospitals and our patient satisfaction scores continue to improve.

Why do some people have to wait longer than others?

Wait times can vary depending on the type of treatment needed, the number of people already being cared for, and how sick they are.

Triage is the process that determines the level of care to be provided, and whose needs are higher, no matter what time they arrived or how. Triage nurses constantly monitor patients in the waiting room for changes in condition.

The Emergency Department is separated into areas based on the level of care provided. Wait times depend on the severity of illness/ injury compared to other people waiting for that same area.

Dedicated areas of care:

A – This area is for patients with minor conditions/ injuries. Due to less urgent conditions seen in this area, more patients can be treated in less time. Dedicated staff in this area means they are not pulled away to assist with life-threatening cases.

B – This area is designed to manage the highest numbers of patients. This includes patients with a large range of conditions that may require more time to investigate. Patients may need diagnostic tests and results, and be here for longer periods of time.

B RAZ (Rapid Assessment Zone) – Patients in this area will be assessed by a Physician Assistant. Because these patients are able to walk and move about, they only need a stretcher/room when being examined and will otherwise move to the “inside” waiting area. This way, more patients can be examined in less time.

C – This is the “critical care area” for treatment of life-threatening conditions. Patients in this area often need extensive medical attention. Members of the Emergency Department team may be called from other areas of care to assist in the C Area.

D – This is the decision-making area. Patients may be transferred to this area from A, B, B-RAZ, or C areas to wait for more tests, a specialist consult or an available bed in the hospital.

Wait times can also depend on the number of patients brought by ambulance or police. These patients arrive through the ambulance bay, and people in the waiting room won’t see them come in.

The Emergency Department team strives to provide the highest quality care in the most efficient way. Patients will be brought to the most appropriate area as soon as possible.