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Emergency Department wait times include the entire amount of time you spend in the department and not the time you wait to be seen by a physician or nurse.

The Ottawa Hospital’s Emergency Department (ED) team works to provide quality care as quickly as possible. The most seriously ill patients are seen first even though they may come into the department after other patients. This is why the triage nurse assesses everyone as soon as possible after they arrive.

Understanding Wait times

When you hear about Emergency Department wait times in the media there are some important things you should know:

  • Emergency wait times measure the total time spent during your entire visit in the Emergency Department and not the amount of time you wait to see a health-care provider. Your visit is measured from your arrival until the point at which you are sent home or admitted to hospital. Depending on your health-care needs, your visit can be lengthy to ensure that you get the care you need.

The level of urgency in your emergency

  • The provincial wait times are reported for Ontario, they are an average of all hospitals in and it is important to recognize that note the types of patients and the care they require cannot be compared easily between Emergency Departments. Of Ontario’s more than 145 emergency departments, only 11 are academic health science centres like The Ottawa Hospital. Many of the emergency departments in community hospitals see fewer acutely ill patients compared to The Ottawa Hospital. When patients are acutely ill in the Champlain region, they are most often referred to The Ottawa Hospital.
90th percentile ED Length of Stay in hours


Apr-14 May-14 Jun-14 Jul-14 Aug-14 Sept-14 Oct-14 Nov-14
Admitted Patients 40.0 31.8 38.2 27.1 29.6 30.8 27.2 25.6 29.4
high acuity
9.3 8.4 8.3 8.0 8.2 8.2 7.9 7.6 7.5
low acuity
6.1 5.2 4.8 5.1 5.2 5.2 4.6 4.5 4.1
General Campus Admitted Patients 29 25.9 24.6 24.5 23.5 30.9 30.0 31.9 28.8
high acuity
9.6 7.3 7.3 7.2 7.5 8.0 7.9 7.0 7.0
low acuity
6.0 4.7 4.9 4.2 4.8 4.4 4.7 3.9 4.2

Wait times will vary based on a patient’s condition, and are generally divided into two categories:

  1. High Acuity – Complex conditions requiring more time for diagnosis, treatment or hospital bed admission
    These include a range of conditions from the most serious such as cardiac arrest, major trauma or a potential threat to life or limb function, to conditions that can potentially turn into to a serious problem without emergency intervention, such as asthma or moderate trauma. Some of these patients will require admission to hospital while others will not.
  2. Low Acuity – Minor or uncomplicated conditions requiring less time for diagnosis, treatment or observation
    These include less serious conditions such as urinary symptoms, mild abdominal pain, a sore throat or chronic health problems.

Last updated on: November 16th, 2016