Frequently Asked Questions about the ED Wait Times Dashboard
Should I use the online wait times to determine where I should go?
In the case of a serious emergency always call 911 or go to your nearest emergency department. The online Emergency Wait Time tool is meant to give the public general information about emergency and urgent care wait times.
How should I use the online wait time information?
Many factors can affect the pressures in emergency departments and those demands can change quickly and significantly. You will have to decide if the currently-posted ED wait time at the hospital nearest you appears to be significantly longer than the time it would take you to travel both to and from a hospital further away, plus the wait time at that site.

 

Many factors likely go into your decision about which ED to use including: familiarity with the hospital, recent previous surgeries or admission to a given hospital, and closeness to your family should you need to be admitted.
What if my condition isn’t an emergency and I don’t know where else to go?
There are several options for seeking care. There is a list of walk-in and urgent care clinics posted on this website. They are appropriate for conditions that need same-day attention but are not life-threatening. The hours of operation vary between clinics. Most start between 8:00 AM and 9:00 AM and are open until between 5:00 PM and 9:00 PM. Most have weekend hours as well. It is important to check the hours of the specific clinic you might be interested in.
How often are the online wait times updated?
Online wait times are refreshed every 5 minutes.
Why are the wait times always changing?
Emergency demand can change quickly and dramatically. An incident such as a serious car accident can unexpectedly send more people to the Emergency Department and significantly impact wait time.
Are there times of the day that are busier?
Yes. Most Emergency Departments get busy starting around 10:00 AM and stay busy until 10:00 PM. There are usually more physicians working at these busy times but waits tend to be longer during these busy times. Nevertheless, it can be busy outside of these times as a result of sick patients and the random variation in how people visit the ED.
Are there days of the week that are busier?
Yes. Most Emergency Departments are about 10% busier on Mondays. This may be due to the inability for people to get in touch with their physicians over the weekend. However, it is important to note that any day can be very busy in the ED.
How are the ED wait times calculated?

There are two values displayed in the ED wait times website. One is the average time to see a physician. This value is calculated as an average value for all patients presenting to the Emergency Department in the preceding hour. We do exclude critically ill patients from the calculation because they are always seen immediately. The website is updated every 5 minutes so the values will always be changing depending on how many people have arrived in the ED in the last hour. The busier the ED the more likely the wait times will be longer.

This means that 50% of the time you come to the ED you will be seen before the listed time and 50% of the time you will be seen after the time listed. This wait time is independent of where you are placed in the ED but in general, if you have a more minor complaint you will likely wait a bit longer.

The second value is the time it takes for almost all patients – 9 out of every 10 who visit the ED to be seen by a physician. This is also known as the 90th percentile and is the time in which 90% of all people seeking care will be seen. It could be considered as the longest you will have to wait. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, some people, about 10%, may have to wait longer than even this time.

Why are the estimated wait times only available in Vancouver, Richmond and North Shore?
This is a pilot provided by Vancouver Coastal Health-Providence Health Care that will hopefully expand to the rest of the British Columbia’s Health Regions and larger urban centres.
Frequently Asked Questions about the Emergency Department
What are Emergency Wait Times?
Emergency wait times can be many things: the length of wait to be triaged, the length of wait to see a nurse, the wait to see a doctor or nurse practitioner and the wait until discharge home or to an inpatient floor. For the purpose of the information posted on this website, wait time refers to the length of time between being assessed by a triage nurse and seeing a doctor or nurse practitioner.
Why do I have to wait to get care in the Emergency Department?
Even though there are many doctors and nurses working in the ED there often many patients who arrive in a short period of time. This makes it hard to see everyone in a timely fashion. Sometimes critically ill patients arrive that demand the immediate attention of staff to help them. We try and see all patients as soon as we can.

If you are interested to find out more you can watch the video below from ThinkHealthBC logo

How will I be assessed for my turn to be seen?
The emergency department does not work on a first come, first served system. It’s important to know that critical patients will be seen first, whether they arrive on their own or via ambulance. Upon arrival in the department, you will be assessed using the Canadian Triage and Acuity Scale (CTAS). You will be seen by a doctor or nurse practitioner based on that assessment. In simple terms, the sickest patients will be seen most quickly.
Do I need to bring anything with me to Emergency?
Please bring photo ID and your BC Services Card or CareCard. If you're not from BC, please bring your equivalent health insurance card and photo identification. This information will help our caregivers to know who you are so they can have appropriate access to previous related health history and provide you with the best health care.
When should I call an ambulance to come to the hospital?
If you have a serious or life-threatening condition (like a stroke or a heart attack, or a serious injury) you should call 9-1-1. If you have a condition where walking or driving is too difficult and you cannot have someone take you to the hospital you should call 9-1-1 for an ambulance.
If I come to the Emergency Department by ambulance will I be seen sooner?
You will be seen by the doctor based on how sick you are. If patients are equally sick they will be seen in the order in which they arrive in the ED. Taking an ambulance to hospital does not impact the time it takes to see a doctor. In general, sicker patients arrive by ambulance service.
Why does it take so long to get my problem looked after in the Emergency Department?
The length of time you will spend in the Emergency Department depends on how long it takes to see a physician and what kinds of tests and treatments you require in the ED. For example, it usually takes about 60 minutes to get the results of a blood test. A simple x-ray usually adds about 30 minutes to your stay. A CT scan can add anywhere from 1 to 5 hours, especially if it requires additional measures before it is performed and interpreted. Sometimes, you will need observation in the ED to insure that the treatments you received are helping and/or the nature of your problem will allow the doctor to discharge you home. About half of all ED patients with minor problems will be discharged home within two hours and about half of those with more major problems will stay for 4 hours.
What if I do not have insurance? What if I am from out of the country?
Vancouver Coastal Health – Providence Health Care (VCH-PHC) is obligated to collect fees for medical treatment provided to both uninsured residents of Canada and non-residents. Further details on the charges are provided at the Emergency Registration Desk of all EDs in the region.
What if I do not want to stay after I have registered?
Sometimes patients do not want to stay to see the physician. They either feel better, or have to go somewhere, or simply do not want to wait any longer. We discourage patients from leaving prior to being seen. If you do feel like you need to go, please talk to the Triage Nurse prior to leaving the ED.
It seems like I have been forgotten in the ED. Is there anything I can do?
About 300,000 patients are seen in the VCH-PHC regional EDs in a year. Rarely, it happens that a patient gets overlooked. This can happen if you leave the ED or go to the washroom for a few minutes and your name is called. If you are leaving the Department for any reason, please let the Triage Nurse know. If you have been waiting for more than 90 minutes and a physician has not seen you, please check in with the Triage Nurse.