The estimated wait time to see an emergency room doctor at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre is available with the click or tap of a button.
Until now, wait times on Alberta Health Services’ website and mobile app were only available for Calgary and Edmonton area hospitals and urgent care centres.
Wait times refer to time spent waiting for the initial assessment by a doctor following assessment by a triage nurse upon arrival in the emergency department.
AHS said the estimated wait time is calculated based on the acuity of patients waiting for care, the number of emergency staff, and the number of patients waiting for care. It doesn’t take into account seriously ill patients who are seen immediately and patients with non-urgent concerns who may wait longer depending on resources.
Wait times refresh every two minutes.
“To see your physician for the first assessment, the target is 1.2 hours. We actually are better than the target right now on average over the month. We’re about 1.1 hours,” said Allan Sinclair, AHS executive director of Red Deer in Central Zone, on Wednesday.
He said the wait time fluctuates up and down. It can be higher during peak periods for emergency room visits, like after lunch. It can be lower early in the day or late at night. It can also rise and fall while waiting in emergency depending on the arrival of seriously ill patients requiring immediate treatment.
“We try to see the sickest patients first. It’s not quite the same as waiting in line at a bank where you know you’re third in line to the teller and you’re going to stay third in line to the teller.”
He said patients who are not being admitted are typically in and out of emergency on average about 3.9 to almost four hours which often includes waiting for lab work or diagnostics or further medical investigation.
Sinclair said wait time estimates are an additional piece of information people can use to decide when to go to the hospital if they have a complaint that can wait. They may also look to other options like doctor’s offices, walk-in clinics, an emergency room in a nearby community.
But any patient with a critical health problem should definitely not look at the app and defer their emergency room visit based on the estimated wait time, he said.
“If patients are showing symptoms of something that’s very serious we absolutely want them to come into the hospital and not wait because those patients triaged as a very serious case will be seen very quickly.”
“We are here for service if patients need us,” Sinclair said.
Online estimated emergency department wait times were first posted for hospitals and urgent care centres in the Calgary Zone in July 2011, and in the Edmonton Zone in June 2012.
The AHS App is available at the Apple App Store and Google Play.
For more information visit www.albertahealthservices.ca.