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
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
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
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.