Why Must I Sometimes Wait To Be Seen in the Emergency Room?

By: John Starkey, BMH ED Nurse Manager

The Emergency Department (ED) at BMH sees approximately 13,000 patients each year. Upon arrival, each patient is interviewed quickly by our triage nurse who decides whether or not the severity of the illness or injury requires immediate interventions. The decision made by the ED Nurse is based upon a proven triage system called the Canadian 5 level ESI (Emergency Severity Index). This system sorts patients according to the patient’s need for immediate interventions from those who can safely wait before being seen by the physician. This system is like those used by the military when dealing with multiple victims all at once.

The BMH ED strives to see all patients as quickly as possible within the triage system.

Factors that may directly affect your wait time in the ED

  • Time of Day – We generally are busier between the hours of 11:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m.
  • Day of Week – We are generally busier on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
  • Volume of Patients – If you arrive during a busy period when there are a lot of patients in the ED, the wait may be longer.
  • How sick are the other patients when you arrive? – The ED staff will attend to the sicker patients first. If you are one of the sicker patients, we will be attending to you more quickly.
  • Delays in lab or X-ray results – The busier our ED gets almost always reflects on how busy our other departments are.
  • Delays in contacting a primary doctor or a specialist – It takes time for your doctor to come over to the ED, or to have a specialist come from somewhere else to attend to you
  • Delays for admission or transfer – Patients may wait to be admitted because a room needs to be cleaned, or the staff might be waiting to discharge another patient to make room for you.
  • Delays in getting you discharged – The ED doctor wants to be exact with his instructions, because we quite often won’t see you again. We want to get it right the first time.

The Emergency Department continually evaluates methods to decrease patient wait times. We have implemented some process changes and we have also added staff. There is now a Physician Assistant or a Nurse Practitioner in addition to the ED physician on some shifts. We hope to further decrease wait time in the future by expanding and renovating the Emergency Department.