Anecdotally, this seems to be the issue I hear people griping most often about (and also the one that I personally have most often bumped up against) in Ontario: you very often wait in emerg for hours to get triaged, hours to get seen by a doc, hours for any follow-up, and hours to get discharged. I'm not sure I've been in and out of emerg in fewer than 6 or 7 hours, ever, and that's not good. And on top of that, it's of course well documented that you'll often spend much or all of that time in a hallway. None of it is good.
Again anecdotally, it seems the second-most griped-about topic is the wait time for MRIs (and in cases other types of scans); it's kind of nuts that you can wait literally 6+ months for a medically necessary scan.
The other difficult thing, of course, in making Canada-wide assessments and, even more so, in prescribing solutions (pardon the pun), is that healthcare is administered by the provinces. In Ontario, there's lots of blame to go around: you've got one party (blue team) that typically wants to slash spending for ideological reasons, and another (red team) that typically makes hay about "investing in education and healthcare" without dramatically increasing spending levels or enacting reforms. (There's also of course an orange team carping on the sidelines.)
And that's the difficulty: Contemporary political dialogue/wisdom has made it effectively impossible for any party to raise taxes on anyone except the most wealthy (which is limited in its utility for various reasons), and so basically no one can plausibly come up with a plan to make big new investments in the stuff that is super expensive (healthcare and education). I'm not sure how that wheel gets broken, but I'm finding it hard not to despair in the meantime.
Our local hospital has a so-called 'sit and stitch' room which seems to work reasonably well. A lot of the backlog is folks showing up with colds and the flu - if I was king of the world I would empower the staff to just tell them to go home. Triage is fairly quick, it's what happens after that where the problems start.
Our experience yesterday:
- Took the wife in around noon with dizziness. There were about 4 or 5 waiting. Passed thru triage and got into emerg around 1330 (at this point I was told to go home). Around 1830, she called and said she had a CT scan and other assorted tests and was going to be admitted. They were pretty sure it was benign paroxysmal positional vertigo
but out of 'abundance of caution' wanted to rule out a TMI or micro-bleed. Our hospital doesn't have an MRI and it was faster to get her one at the regional health centre as an in-patient.
- I took a care package incl. e-reader and tablet, plus a tea. Emerg was packed. Not fed, and I couldn't get any advice that she could be fed. I snuck her a chocolate bar from the vending machine. She was moved from emerg to a floor around midnight. She is convinced it was a 'special care' ward given some of the patient (I suppose a bed is a bed). She was woken on several occasions by various staffers doing various things. Apparently, sleeping at night, and doing things as quietly as practicable - just in case people are sleeping - is foreign to them.
-This morning around 1100, she said she now was not going for an MRI. Here symptoms had subsided quite a bit and they re-assessed their abundance of caution in light of the problem of booking transport and a transfer nurse. Silly me, I dropped everything and waited for the immanent call to go get her - which came at 1500 (on one occasion a few years ago she did, in fact, walk out. Does that ever cause a kerfuffle).
- She is currently sleeping.
Although modern imaging devices are expensive, I agree that staffing is a huge issue. A former neighbour was i/c of the imaging department at a local hospital and said they could run all devices 24/7 (with downtime for maintenance) if they had the staff. There was a bit of a scandal a number of years ago when it was learned that hospitals were allowing veterinary use during off hours, which led to the joke that if you had an early morning appointment, just brush off the pet hair.