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Auditor General report: Torontonians waiting too long for 911 calls to be answered

TORONTO – Response times to calls from Toronto residents who need the help of police, firefighters or paramedics are too long. To photograph this sad reality is a new report by the auditor general of the city. 

In the report, which precedes the June 22 meeting of the Toronto Police Service Board, the Auditor General noted that the 911 emergency sorting centre failed, almost every day last year, to meet the minimum standard for responding to requests for help.

The centre, operated by the Toronto Police Service, has a minimum standard of 15 seconds to answer 90 percent of all calls to emergency health services. The report found that the call centre, from 2018 to 2021, did not reach this goal and the wait of many citizens to receive a response in the period from 2018 to 2021 – 13 thousand to be precise – was longer than a minute. Delays, which during the past year, the report attributes to call volume and staffing problems.

These are requests for help that, according to the report, go unheeded for too long. At least 424 people waited more than four minutes, and on Sundays during peak hours waiting times rose to eight minutes or even more.

The Auditor General therefore states that the center, if it wants to comply with industry standard waiting times, must hire more operators.

The situation is no better in Ontario’s emergency rooms where despite the number of Covid-19 cases is decreasing, people in need of treatment have to wait for record time before they can be visited by a doctor.

The latest statistics made public by Health Quality Ontario state that in April patients waited an average of 20 hours, the longest average waiting time ever recorded in the province during this month. Doctors, for their part, say that patients are now arriving in hospitals with a variety of post-Covid problems, such as lung damage, blood clots, strokes and heart attacks.

This difficult situation worries the health personnel. Dr. Kashif Pirzada, a doctor at a Toronto emergency room, recently turned to Twitter to share his concerns about the health care system that, according to him, is on the verge of collapse. “Citizens do not realize it, but the system they rely on is held together by adhesive tape and glue – he said without too many words to CityNews – we have never seen it reduced so badly in our entire career”. Pirzada also said that waiting times in emergency rooms right now are between six and eight hours. The situation is identical at Sick Children’s Hospital where recently children have to wait up to four times longer than usual.

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