ERs: Hurry Up and Wait

Dario Ayala / Montreal Gazette

When I think of hospital emergency rooms I imagine a hive of activity, doctors, nurses, orderlies rushing about in orchestrated madness. Ambulances pulling up with patients requiring immediate medical attention. The triage process assigns a level of urgency to patients as they arrive. This will dictate when you are seen by a doctor.

Last Thursday the homecare doctor came to visit my eighty-nine-year-old mother. She wanted her to have some tests and x-rays done. She filled out the appropriate forms, gave them to me and told me to take my mother to the emergency room the next day.

“Is this a dire situation?” I asked her.

She said it was not, but that we really should get these things done.

So we arrived at the Montreal General Hospital emergency room on Friday morning at about ten o’clock. The room was already a going concern with broken bones, chest pains, and numerous other afflictions. After triage during which the nurse told my mother she was “…going to be with us for a while” we took our place in the waiting room.

And wait we did.


At about three-thirty Friday afternoon my mother was seen by the doctor who arranged for the tests and imaging to be done. By 5:15 we were done and the waiting for results process began. It had been a long day, and it was only made longer when the emergency area was placed on lockdown pending the arrival of two shooting victims via ambulance. Police and masked medical staff were everywhere.

Finally, around six-thirty we were on our way with a prescription in hand.  The experience having been a drain on my mother, to say nothing of myself.

What got me annoyed was that people often complain about emergency services; they are understaffed and overworked, there are not enough resources, and too many people clog up the system with non-emergencies. With this last point, I am in total agreement.

I felt we were seeking advice and diagnoses that were more suitable to a clinic than a hospital emergency room. I understand the lengthy wait; the neediest cases get priority, that is the essence of an emergency room. I don’t think ERs should be used as clinics.

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+


3 thoughts on “ERs: Hurry Up and Wait

  1. You are right and why did the doctor send you there rather than making an appointment for the tests? That’s craziness.

  2. Some medical personnel i’ve known call the week-end ER the “gun and knife club”–not a place one really wants to work.

    1. It certainly takes a special breed.

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