Population growth and aging strain capacity of Ontario's emergency departmentsTORONTO, Nov. 15, 2016 /CNW/ - People are seeing doctors more quickly when they arrive in Ontario's emergency departments (EDs) and overall their visits are shorter. This is despite an ever-increasing flow of patients who are becoming collectively older and sicker. Most Ontario residents are also satisfied with the care they receive in emergency. But emergency departments are under a great deal of pressure. While progress has been made in overall performance, an emergency department could be strained by a bad flu season, or if a hospital nearby has to temporarily close its emergency department. Those are the findings of Under Pressure: Emergency Department Performance in Ontario, a report released today by Health Quality Ontario, the provincial advisor on health care quality. The good news includes a 10% drop over the last seven years in the maximum amount of time nine out of 10 patients spent in the ED - to 7.8 hours from 8.7 hours. There was also more than a 16% decrease in the maximum amount of time nine out of 10 patients waited in the emergency department to see a doctor - to 3 hours from 3.6. However, the data also show that urban residents spend longer in the emergency department and wait longer to see a doctor in emergency than people living in rural areas. As well, many of the sickest patients in the province - those who need to be admitted to hospital - have to wait a long time in the emergency department for a bed in an inpatient ward. This is often because patients who should be receiving more appropriate care in other settings such as long term care remain in hospital. This is called alternate level of care and can impact the ability of hospital to move patients from the EDs to an inpatient ward.