Emergency and Critical Care Services

The Emergency Department at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre is one of the busiest in Canada with over 100,000 visits per year.

How to Get Here/What to Expect

The Emergency Department has its own set of doors on the south side of the building. Metered parking is available immediately outside, with two other parking lots nearby. Upon entering the Emergency Department, please wash your hands with hand sanitizer and wait in line for the next available nurse.

Please remember to bring your Health Card every visit.

At the desk, a triage nurse will ask you general questions about your condition and swipe your Health Card. You will then be asked to have a seat in the waiting room, where you will be called and admitted into the Health Sciences Centre. Then, you will be asked to return to the waiting room until you are called once again to be “triaged” or assessed by a nurse, who will take your vital signs (temperature, blood pressure, etc.) and will ask you more specific questions. After this assessment, you will be asked to return to the waiting room until you are called for treatment.

Please note: although Emergency Department staff work hard to see you as soon as possible, patients are seen based on the seriousness of their injuries/illness, not in order of arrival. Those with less serious injuries may be required to wait longer.

If your symptoms worsen while you are waiting, please approach the desk and let the nurse know. Nurses will also be watching your condition while you are in the waiting room – in fact, the area is set up so that the nurse at the desk can see and monitor all patients. Nurses may also check your vital signs again, depending on your symptoms and the wait time. You are also welcome to approach the nurse if you feel you have been waiting a long time.

We have made the waiting room as comfortable as possible for our patients with a wide variety of vending choices including hot and cold drinks, snacks, and healthy choices. We have also created a children’s play area and installed TVs to help you pass the time. You may also wish to bring a book or some other form of entertainment. Electronic devices are allowed, but please be respectful of the other patients and family members around you.

During Treatment

You will be called at some point to enter the main treatment area of the Emergency Department. A doctor specially trained in emergency treatment will assess you based on your symptoms and ask you questions about your condition. You may be sent for tests including diagnostic imaging (X-rays, etc.) or lab tests (for example, blood work).

For the safety and confidentiality of our patients, recording with cameras, voice recorders, or video recorders – including those on cell phones – is not permitted in the Emergency Department.


Family and loved ones are an important part of the care we provide. However, the Emergency Department is a busy place with over 50 beds. Too many visitors can cause congestion in the treatment areas, so we ask that only one visitor visit a patient at a time.


After your assessment, your doctor may find that there is no need for further treatment, and will discharge you. The doctor may give you a prescription and further instructions, including follow up with your primary care provider (family doctor, nurse practitioner, etc.) Please note these instructions carefully. You may find it helpful to bring a pen and paper, if possible, to write these instructions down.

Note that if you require a prescription, the Emergency Department does not fill that prescription or provide a “first dose”. If needed, there are 24-hour pharmacies in Thunder Bay that can fill your prescription. Some medical items including crutches, inhaler chambers, and other devices may be available at a charge. The Emergency Department doctor will discuss this with you at the time.

Please arrange for a ride from the Emergency Department. City bus service is available from the Health Sciences Centre’s main entrance, but it is often advisable to have someone drive you after a visit to the Emergency Department depending on your condition or medication.

Admitting to the Health Sciences Centre

After your assessment, your doctor may find that you will need to be admitted to the Health Sciences Centre for further treatment. Once this decision is made, various staff at the Health Sciences Centre will work to find you a bed as quickly as possible. However, if the facility is in gridlock, it may take some time to locate an appropriate bed. You will still receive the same level of care while you are waiting for a bed.

We have created a kitchenette area for patients and family members to prepare snacks and store food while they are waiting. Please help keep this area tidy, respect the food and drinks of others, and remove all food from the fridge/area when you leave.

You can read more about gridlock and our gridlock policies here.

Do I Really Need to Come to Emergency?

The Emergency Department does not turn away any patients, and if you are having a medical emergency then calling 911 or coming to the Emergency Department is your best option. But for non-emergencies, you may feel more comfortable going to one of the many walk-in clinics in Thunder Bay.

Click here to see the up-to-date list of clinics and hours (maintained by 211OntarioNorth.ca):

Why am I waiting in the Emergency Department?

As each patient comes into the Emergency Department at our Hospital, they will be assessed by a Registered Nurse, who will triage based on the urgency of need for medical care. Have you ever wondered how triage works at the Hospital? Or where the word “triage” comes from? Dr. Mike Evans and Reframe Health Lab created a video explaining how triage works and why it is so important.

Our Narcotics Policy

Doctors at the Emergency Department will not refill or give a prescription for any narcotics including codeine-based painkillers. Please visit your primary care provider (family doctor, nurse practitioner, etc.) to renew your prescription.

Ontario Wait Times

See how the Emergency Department at the Health Sciences Centre compares to other facilities around the province.

Emergency Department Wait Times

Walk-In Clinics

Thunder Bay has a number of walk-in clinics that may be more convenient and suitable for non-emergency needs. Click here to see the up-to-date list of clinics and hours (maintained by 211OntarioNorth.ca).

List of Walk-In Clinics