26% of patients left HSC emergency room without being seen last year: report

The shortage of health care workers across the country remains a crisis. A recent report from Manitoba shows that a quarter of patients left Winnipeg’s biggest hospital without receiving care last year. Alex Karpa reports.

By Alex Karpa

More than a quarter of patients left Winnipeg’s biggest hospital without receiving care last year, partly due to a shortage of health-care workers – a trend that is true across the country.

That’s according to a new report from Manitoba’s Shared Health.

It suggests the number of patients who left the emergency room at Winnipeg’s Health Sciences Centre without being seen nearly tripled between 2018 and 2022.

“Unless something is done quickly, as in today, or tomorrow, it’s just going to keep getting worse,” said Dr. Candace Bradshaw, the president of Doctors Manitoba. “Our physicians are burning out. Working in a system like this is extremely distressing.

“Very distressing as a physician, for our emergency physicians in particular.”

In 2018, 9.4 per cent of people seeking help left the HSC emergency room without being seen. In 2022, that number skyrocketed to 26.5 per cent.


Dr. Kashif Pirzada, an emergency doctor in Toronto, says around 20 per cent of Canadians do not have a family doctor, and when they encounter an issue, they come to the emergency room, which is leading to higher wait times.

“It’s more expensive to treat, they suffer more and are more injured when we have to deal with it in the emergency room,” said Pirzada.

He says there are solutions to this problem that the federal government could have already addressed.

“We have thousands of foreign graduates sitting around,” said the Brampton Civic emergency doctor. “We can use them as assistance, get them into the system and that is not happening. Lots of solutions, but there is no real will to fix these problems.”

exterior of hospital

Winnipeg Health Sciences Centre. (Credit: CityNews/Mike Albanese)

Last week, Canada’s premiers agreed to accept Ottawa’s 10-year health-care funding offer worth around $46 billion.

But Pirzada says, in health-care terms, that isn’t a lot of money. He says due to staffing shortages and high demand for health-care services, there is a lot of burnout. He isn’t sure the funding will be enough to fix the issue.

“We need to address that and make working conditions better for doctors and nurses and really work on that recruitment and building capacity because these things (pandemic) are going to happen again,” he said.

Manitoba has one of the fewest number of physicians per capita in Canada. It would take 405 more doctors just to get to the Canadian average, according to Doctors Manitoba. The shortage has increased five-fold, or over 400 per cent, over the last 20 years.

WATCH: The impact of new funding deal on Canada’s health care system

Thomas Linner from the Manitoba Health Coalition says this issue has been raised to the Manitoba government countless times. But he says it appears nothing is being done to fix the crisis. And for that reason, according to him, Manitobans are not receiving the health care they deserve.

“We all know about the severe crisis, the staffing shortage crisis in our hospitals,” said Linner. “We know about the cuts to emergency rooms that have occurred over the past few years. The cuts to critical care capacity in Winnipeg. It’s not surprising to learn then that our emergency rooms are suffering.”

Through surveys conducted by Doctors Manitoba, Bradshaw says 43 per cent of physicians in the next three years are either planning on reducing their hours, retiring, or plan to leave the province, which is making an already difficult situation even worse.

“We need to put a stop to this, and stop the exodus of our physicians,” said Bradshaw.

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