Insights January 2013

Density and the City: How Will Toronto Healthcare Cope with Population Growth?

Andrew Livingstone


Abstract only. The full article Published in the Toronto Star on Tuesday January 01, 2013

If you think wait times at Toronto hospitals are already too long, just wait until 2036. Twenty-five years from now, Toronto is expected to have one million new residents. It’s projected the GTA will reach 9.2 million by 2036, a 44 per cent increase from 2011.

The city’s health-care services, particularly hospitals, are already plagued by long wait times and stretched resources. The average current wait time in a Toronto emergency room is about eight hours.

Dr. Tarek Sardana, president of Orleans Urgent Care in suburban Ottawa, said health-care delivery in high-density urban cores like Toronto could benefit from facilities similar to the one he leads. He describes it as a walk-in clinic on steroids.

Since opening in 1994, at a time when hospitals were facing budget cuts and ER-trained staff were losing their jobs, the Orleans clinics, staffed with emergency-experienced staff, have seen 60,000 patient visits on average annually.

The cost of seeing a single patient, who is typically treated and out the door within a few hours, is minimal next to the single-patient cost at a hospital.

Sardana said the average is about $12 per patient, compared with roughly $180 at a hospital.

“We’re the most efficient health-care delivery system in the province,” he said. “We prevent about 15,000 (patients) annually from going to the emergency room. They’re treated and out the door.”

Urgent care centres aren’t nearly as common in Canada as they are in the United States. Since the late 1990s, the number of such clinics south of the border has grown to nearly 9,000, according to a 2011 report from the Urgent Care Association of America.

Dr. Lawrence Frank, one of North America’s leading experts on urban planning and health, agrees that Ontario could benefit from having more urgent-care clinics to reduce strain on hospitals and provide faster access.

“It’s more cost-effective care,” he said. “We need to do a much better job with models of care and places of accessing care within the system that already have demonstrated some of the burdens that we’re potentially looking at urgent care clinics to take care of.”

Read the full article here:

Longwoods Note: The Group Health Centre in Sault St Marie, Ontario, has a Walk-In Clinic and a Same-Day Clinic (same day with an appointment) from 9 am until 8 pm Monday through Friday. According to their spokesperson, this 55 hour schedule has brought significant relief to the hospital and has improved patient satisfaction considerably. As Ontario's largest and longest established alternatively funded healthcare organization, the Centre serves over 60,000 Sault Ste. Marie and Algoma District residents. 

About the Author(s)

Staff Reporter, Toronto Star


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