Understanding Emergency Department Wait Times

What is the 'Wait Time'?

The estimated wait time is approximately how long it will take from the time you are registered to the time you are seen by a physician. 

How is the estimated wait time determined?

The estimated wait time for each patient condition is determined using the longest wait time from patients currently in the waiting room who are assessed in the same condition category based on presenting symptoms.

What does each patient condition mean?

Emergency department staff assess a person’s health condition based on their presenting symptoms and categorize them as one of three patient types: 

  • Most Urgent (Level 2):  patients who have a potentially life-threatening condition and require immediate emergency medical care;
  • Urgent (Level 3):  patients who have a health condition that has the potential to become serious; or
  • Less than Urgent (Level 4 & 5):  patients who have a non-life-threatening condition.

Why are other people being seen before me?

Individuals who arrive at a hospital emergency department are quickly assessed to determine their current health condition based on presenting symptoms and other factors. In an emergency situation, patients who are most sick or have critical, life-threatening health conditions are cared for first

All Canadian health care facilities use the same standard tool to determine the seriousness of a person’s illness and care for them appropriately.

Why are the wait times always changing?

Emergency demand can change quickly. Wait times will change due to unforeseen circumstances such as a high number of critical patients who require more intense care.

How often are wait times updated?

The wait times are updated every five minutes.

What if my condition isn’t an emergency and I don’t know where else to go?  

If you are unsure where you should seek appropriate treatment, please dial 8-1-1 and an experienced registered nurse can help.

If you do go to an emergency department, it is important that you do not leave the emergency department without first talking to staff about what other treatment/ care options may be available that are safe and appropriate. 

If your condition is not an immediate emergency there may be other options for care such as seeking care at your family physician’s office or at a walk-in clinic.

Walk-in Clinics provide medical care for individuals with non-urgent health care needs. There are several walk-in clinics located in many communities across Prince Edward Island. Walk-in clinic hours may change without notice, please call ahead before visiting. Clinics may also close early when the maximum patient capacity has been reached, or if there are no patients waiting to be seen.

What is the Collaborative Emergency Centre (CEC)?

A Collaborative Emergency Centre (CEC) is an innovative way to improve access to both primary health care and emergency care. A CEC team includes paramedics with Advanced Life Support training and emergency nurses who will provide urgent care assessment in consultation with an on-call emergency physician.

Published date: 
June 27, 2019
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