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Ontario ER wait times for patients with a mental illness

November 19, 2012

A recent study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journalfinds that Ontarians with a mental illness who go to an emergency room (ER) at their hospital, actually have shorter wait times to see a physician during hectic periods, than patients who are not experiencing an episode of mental illness.

Researchers from the Institute of Clinical Evaluative Sciences, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and McMaster University Hospital studied more than 51,000 ER visits of people with manic, depressive or psychotic disorders, and discovered that most of these patients were triaged at a level three out of four, indicating a higher priority.

During less crowded periods in the ER, patients with a mental illness waited on average about 10 minutes longer than others, however if the ER was busy, they waited significantly less time than others before seeing a physician. In addition, patients experiencing mental illness were admitted into the hospital more quickly than other patients.

Researchers concluded that patients with a mental illness are being triaged appropriately in hospital ERs and a “downgrading” of their priority is not occurring.

The online abstract, Wait times in the emergency department for patients with a mental illness is available on the CMAJ website.

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