Emergency Department Overcrowding

What Is the Issue?

Emergency departments (EDs) across Canada are under strain and experiencing overcrowding, a situation in which the demand for health services in the ED exceeds the capacity of the ED, hospital, or community to deliver quality care in a reasonable amount of time. Recent evidence suggests that ED overcrowding is worsening in jurisdictions across Canada. This is in addition to an increasing trend of unexpected temporary ED closures and reductions of services across the country. 

Why Did CADTH Look at ED Overcrowding?

Canadian jurisdictions came to CADTH for objective, impartial, and trusted guidance about the trends, causes, and consequences of ED overcrowding, as well as which interventions are most effective for alleviating ED overcrowding in Canada.

What Did CADTH Do?

CADTH published 5 reports about the trends, causes, consequences, and evidence-informed solutions to ED overcrowding. Through an assessment of the evidence and expert-informed considerations, CADTH’s Health Technology Expert Review Panel also issued important guidance for decision- and policy-makers about which solutions should be considered to effectively alleviate ED overcrowding in Canada. Equity and ethical considerations were incorporated into each component of this project and within the 5 reports, which include:

  • an environmental scan of the contributing factors to ED overcrowding and a summary of the systematic review evidence on the effectiveness of different interventions to alleviate ED overcrowding
  • a summary report of CADTH’s multistakeholder dialogue sessions
  • a horizon scan on new and emerging interventions to alleviate ED overcrowding (those not captured in the summary of systematic review evidence)
  • a qualitative review of the impact of ED overcrowding on those who engage with ED services
  • a utilization analysis to understand how ED overcrowding has changed over time.