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Emergency Department

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Understanding how an Emergency Department works may help you decide if you need to go there. If you think it's an emergency or urgent, don't hesitate, trust your judgement. 

It's not always easy to know if a medical problem needs emergency care at an Emergency Department. In some situations, emergency medical treatment is a must. Other conditions and services such as prescription renewals are best dealt with by your family doctor or at a local after-hours clinic. 
When you need to visit Emergency please bring:
  • Ontario Health card and another piece of photo ID
  • Children need their birth certificate and Ontario Health Card
  • Medications you are taking (including herbal remedies)
Your visit
If you come in on our own, you will take a number and go to the waiting room to wait for the triage nurse to call you. Whether you arrive by ambulance or on your own, a Triage Nurse will ask you several questions and perform a few simple procedures to assess your condition. This will help them decide how urgently you need to be seen by a doctor. This process is known as Triage. Patients are treated based on how urgent their health care needs are in this order: 
  • Life threatening - cardiac arrest, major trauma, unconsciousness or non-responsive, limb amputation 
  • Emergent - head injury, spinal cord injury, heart attack, high fever in infant less than 3 months old
  • Urgent - dislocated shoulder, asthma, seizure, vomiting and diarrhea in toddler, leg fracture 
  • Less urgent - fractured wrist, ear infection, foreign body in eye, back pain, headache 
  • Not urgent - constipation, minor cuts or bumps, sore throat, dressing changes, prescription renewal
Worst Comes First 
Patients are seen by a doctor in order of need. Emergency care is not provided on a first-come first-served basis. We can’t give you a definite length of time you will wait, and we can’t give out wait times over the phone. Your wait time will depend on: 
  • How urgently you need care
  • How urgently others in the Emergency Department need care, including those who arrive by ambulance
  • How busy the Emergency Department is when you arrive
  • Once you have been assessed it may be necessary for you to have further tests (e.g. X-rays or blood tests) or be seen by a specialist.
What else can I do?
  • If you have a family doctor, go to your family doctor. Your doctor knows your family history and can provide you with the best follow-up care. Your community pharmacist may offer advice on non-urgent medical matters.
  • Make sure you and your family have enough prescribed medication, especially for weekends and holidays.
  • If you have a chronic illness, keep your regularly scheduled appointments with your doctor. Ask your doctor what change in your condition would require medical attention.
Access Ontario Wait Times