Source: X

Quebec’s healthcare system has deteriorated to the point where patients seeking urgent care are simply abandoning emergency rooms due to excessive wait times. 

Quebec residents are leaving hospital emergency rooms before seeing a health professional at an alarmingly rising rate amid unbearable wait times. The patients leaving before being attended to often have serious health concerns, according to the Montreal Economic Institute.

Between Apr. 1, 2023, and Feb. 24, 2024, 3,265,349 patients visited emergency rooms in Quebec. Of these patients, 376,460, or 11.5%, left before seeing a physician.

“That amounts to 1,140 Quebecers a day who were thus abandoned by the system,” reads the Montreal Economic Institute’s publication.

The over 375,000 Quebecers who left emergency rooms before being attended to were separated into five categories.

The smallest, but most alarming category, was Quebecers who fell into the “resuscitation” category. Only 101, or 0.03% of Quebecers who left the emergency room before being treated fell into this category. 

The Montreal Economic Institute told True North that they don’t know whether this means patients were resuscitated before leaving the hospital or afterwards. The data were provided to them by the Quebec Department of Health and Social Services through an access to information request and did not elaborate on specifics.

Following the “resuscitation” category were Quebecers who left the emergency room with a “very urgent” health concern. 8,279, or 2.2% of Quebecers fell into this category, followed by 95,335, or 25.3% of Quebecers who left the emergency room with “urgent” health concerns.

The author of the Montreal Economic Institute’s publication, Emmanuelle B. Faubert, said that the biggest failure facing Quebec’s healthcare system is that patients in the first three categories fell through the cracks.

“In these life-threatening conditions, these patients need to be treated rapidly,” said Faubert.

The number of patients in the first three categories rose from 21.9% in 2018-2019 to 27.5% in 2023-24.

“Therefore, not only are more patients leaving an ER without being treated today, but more of them are leaving with urgent health problems,” said Faubert.

The largest group is the fourth category of 179,547, or 47.7%, of Quebecers who left the emergency room with a “semi-urgent” health condition.

Only 22.6%, 84,966, Quebecers who left the emergency room before being seen by a healthcare professional between Apr. 1, 2023, and Feb. 24, 2024, were deemed to have “non-urgent” health concerns.

8,232, or 2.2%, of Quebecers left the emergency room before triage.

The  second systemic failure highlighted by the publication is the lack of access to primary care. Those with semi-urgent and non-urgent health conditions comprised 70% of Quebecers who left the emergency room before being seen by a doctor.

“Part of the problem stems from the fact that hundreds of thousands of Quebecers do not have access to a family doctor and have no other choice but to visit an emergency room, even for a minor health problem,” said Faubert.

While Quebec’s healthcare system faces pressing issues, there are solutions available.

Faubert suggested that Quebec implement more nurse practitioner clinics, accelerate activity-based funding, expand emergency room capacity, and increase competition.

In 2023, Canada faced the longest healthcare wait times ever recorded.

Quebec offers live updates on wait times and other relevant data in emergency rooms across the province. 

As of Thursday afternoon, the longest wait time for “non-priority cases” to see a doctor was almost 15 hours at the Hôpital de Granby. This was not an anomaly, as numerous of the 115 hospitals followed closely behind. However, a few hospitals had wait times closer to an hour.

On Wednesday, the average wait time across Quebec in emergency waiting rooms was just under five hours. The average wait time on a stretcher was 16 hours and 11 minutes. 

“In order to have fewer patients leaving emergency rooms before being treated, it is essential that we change tack and open up to more entrepreneurship and innovation in the healthcare sector,” concluded Faubert.

However, experts and leaders have warned that the Liberals’ capital gain tax will stifle entrepreneurship, driving healthcare, tech, and other professionals out of the country.