Potential emergency room (ER) visitors at Eagle Ridge Hospital can now find out in advance how long they could be waiting or staying when they arrive.
The online dashboard shows three distinct categories:
- Wait time
- How long until you see a doctor
- Expected length of stay
- Normal or busier operations
As of this publication, the current wait time at Eagle Ridge Hospital is three hours with an expected length of stay of nearly six hours, as well as a green checkmark indicating "normal" ER operations.
The times are automatically updated every five minutes, according to Fraser Health.
The numbers are estimates and are based on calculated daily averages, but the authority said ER wait times are unpredictable and could fluctuate when patient volumes suddenly increase.
"This new information about the emergency departments will help patients and families make informed decisions about accessing care," said Fraser Health spokesperson Dixon Tam in a release.
"Over the past fiscal year, we have seen a seven per cent increase in emergency department visits compared to pre-pandemic levels. By providing information about wait times and expected length of stay, we hope to improve the experience for our patients and their families by reducing uncertainty and anxiety they may feel while waiting for care."
New ER department
The page is launched nearly a year after Eagle Ridge Hospital completed its $37.5-million ER department upgrades.
That in itself was a campaign that advocated 3.5 years for a larger local ER, expanding three-fold to 23,745 sq. ft., with almost 40 new treatment spaces to serve up to 50,000 patients a year.
But can this meet the demand of the growing population and being the only hospital in the Tri-Cities region?
During the COVID-19 pandemic, when the emergency room was full, some Tri-Cities residents turned elsewhere for prompt healthcare, such as hospitals in Burnaby, New Westminster and Pitt Meadows.
With the expansion, B.C. health minister Adrian Dix told the Tri-City News in July 2022 patients should feel at ease when heading to Eagle Ridge.
"That doesn't mean there wasn't high quality care before, but having your own special place as opposed to being separated by a curtain [...] this is an exceptional emergency room. And it's here because of the nurses and the doctors and contributors in the community who made it happen."
In Burnaby last year, a mother went to two ERs in hopes a doctor can see her ailing two-year-old daughter for a six-day fever, nasty cough and congestion.
And that followed up several phone-call attempts by Rachel Thexton for their family doctor and pediatrician. She waited for six hours until deciding to go home without seeing a medical professional.
"I defend our health care constantly because I think it's fantastic for the most part," she told Glacier Media.
"This is the first time in my life when I felt that I could see it crumbling. And it really scared me and disappointed me."
Thexton added her family doctor did reach out to her after hearing of her experience and arranged for tests and an appointment for her daughter.
Tam said more than 2,000 people utilize Fraser Health ERs on a daily basis.
He said, while residents should familiarize themselves with the wait times dashboard, those who need urgent medical care should call 911 or go to the nearest ER.
Those with non-life-threatening injuries or issues, but could still be urgent, are encouraged to visit a primary care centre or call Fraser Health's vitrual care line (1-800-314-0999).
Port Moody also has an urgent and primary care centre (3105 Murray St.) that opened in November 2022 with 25.5 full-time healthcare workers.
Patients are seen in order of urgency; line-ups are not permitted outside the clinic.
- with files from Diane Strandberg, Tri-City News, and Jess Balzer, Burnaby NOW