When I am suddenly very sick or experience a random injury, my first instinct is to tough it out and hope the problem solves itself. Yes, I should probably go seek out some medical attention and head to an emergency room, but do you know why I never do?
The same reason you avoid a hospital emergency room whenever possible, you don't want to sit there, waiting for hours on end, only to receive half-hearted service that only leaves you feeling like you didn't get the attention you really needed in the first place.
And no matter which Montrealer I talk to, the sentiment remains the same: waiting for medical attention at an emergency room isn't worth it. Unless you're seriously injured or very ill, all we can do is say a silent prayer that the waiting time won't exceed three hours.
Our collective loathing of emergency room waiting times isn't unfounded, either, as a recently-released report from Quebec’s health and welfare commissioner has made clear.
According to the report's findings, Quebec has the worst/longest emergency room wait times in the entire western world.
In other news, ice is cold and fire is hot.
But seriously, while the report's findings won't surprise anyone living in Quebec, the specific details will shock you in the worst way.
When visiting an emergency room in Quebec, you have about a one-in-three (or 35%) chance that you'll have to wait 5+ hours to see a medical professional. In Ontario, the likelihood of someone waiting that long is only 15%, with Canada's average jumping up a bit to 19%.
The average length for visit to the emergency room (from triage to a gurney) is even worse, with most folks spending a full nine hours at the hospital. The international average is four hours, so you can see just how poorly Quebec stacks up against the rest of the western world.
But all of those figures only apply to people who actually have the patience to sit and wait through a trip to the emergency room and see a medical professional. Some people simply don't, with 10% of visitors leaving the hospital without seeing a doctor or being referred elsewhere.
In total, 1.5 million of emergency room visits in Quebec exceeded the province's maximum wait time, adding up to about 13 million hours of time wasted for Quebecers just sitting around and waiting for health care. According to the Montreal Gazette, all of those hour lost waiting (and not working) account for about $300 million in lost wages.
Something of a silver lining is how Montreal hospitals were found to have the shortest wait times in Quebec. At the top tier of Montreal hospitals were St. Mary's and Jewish General, with an average waiting time of 109.7 minutes and 121.5 minutes, respectively. That's not as bad as seeking medical attention in Montérégie, where the waiting times average out to 329 minutes.
Even worse, Quebec's health minister was bold enough to say that the report's findings "are nothing new to him" and medical services in the province are actually improving. Yes, because waiting more than five hours when in serious need of medical attention is mark of improvement.
Hopefully this report serves as something of a wake up call for the province, because we obviously have a lot of room for improvement when it comes to health care.