How do emergency rooms work?
An emergency room (ER) is the department in a hospital that receives people who are sick or injured who arrive on their own or are brought in by ambulance, and where they are given care. Note that there are specialized emergency departments in some facilities.
Everything is done to reducer ER wait times, but there are still many reasons why you may have to wait longer in an emergency room than at your attending physician’s clinic. Patients arrive in emergency rooms without appointments and sometimes at the same time as other people, like when there is an accident and several people require care rapidly.
Wait times vary depending on
- how many people are there, and
- the severity of your and other patients’ condition
- When you arrive, register at the ER reception desk. To be seen quickly, you must present your health insurance card and your hospital card. If you don’t have a hospital card, to get one you will have to provide all the necessary information (e.g. your name, address, person to contact, etc.).
- A nurse will assess your condition (this is called triage). She will ask you a series of questions to determine your priority level.
- Depending on your priority level, you will return to the waiting room or you will be put on a stretcher until a doctor is available (if you feel your condition, or the condition of the person you are with, is getting worse or changing, don’t hesitate to tell ER staff right away).
- A doctor will evaluate your condition and provide the treatment you need, or refer you to the appropriate department to get the care you need.
5 priority levels
- Priority 1 (P1) : Your life is in danger and you require immediate care (Shock, coma)
- Priority 2 (P2) : Your condition requires rapid intervention (intense chest pain, difficulty breathing, signs of a heart attack)
- Priority 3 (P3) : Although serious, your health problem is not life-threatening (fracture, signs of infection)
- Priority 4 (P4) : You don’t necessarily require immediate care (minor allergic reaction)
- Priority 5 (P5) : Your health problem isn’t serious and instead you should go to a medical clinic or CLSC (gastroenteritis, signs of urinary infection)
Priority is determined using the Canadian Emergency Department Triage and Acuity Scale (source : Le Protecteur du Citoyen).
8-1-1 or 9-1-1? Make the right choice!
If you’re not sure whether or not you need to go to emergency, call Info-Santé at 8-1-1. A nurse will answer your questions and refer you to the most appropriate service for your health condition.
If your condition doesn’t equire emergency services, go to a medical clinic.
Is your life or the life of someone you know in danger?
Go to the nearest emergency department or call 9-1-1.