Frequently Asked Questions

  • The first step for all patients arriving at an Emergency Department/Fast Track is to be assessed by a Triage Nurse. 
  • The Triage Nurse will evaluate your condition and prioritize your medical need based on the Canadian Triage and Acuity Scale. This assessment allows us to determine the seriousness of your injury or illness.
  • Patients are seen on a priority basis, not on a first-come-first-served basis. This ensures the sickest patients get the care they need first — even though they may arrive at the ED after other patients.
  • To evaluate your medical needs, the Triage Nurse will ask you for details about:
    • the circumstances that brought you to hospital
    • your history of illness or injury
    • whether you have allergies
    • which medications you take
  • The nurse will also check your temperature, pulse or blood pressure during the triage process.

Multiple factors contribute to how a patient is triaged when arriving at our Emergency Department. Triage nurses across Canada use the Canadian Triage and Acuity Scale (CTAS) to evaluate medical urgency. There are five triage levels, No. 1 being the most critical and No. 5 being non-urgent.

If your condition changes please, advise the triage nurse immediately.

Level 1
Critical — obviously life-threatening conditions requiring resuscitation, including cardiac arrest, shock and major trauma

Level 2
Emergent — potential threat to life or limb Examples include asthma, altered mental state, chest pain suggestive of heart problems

Level 3
Urgent — a condition or serious problem requiring emergency intervention Examples include abdominal pain, mild dehydration, kidney stone or shortness of breath

Level 4
Less Urgent — conditions which because of distress or potential for complications would benefit from intervention Examples include vomiting and diarrhea with no dehydration, bladder infections, lacerations and earaches

Level 5
Non-Urgent — conditions which are non-urgent and/or which might be part of a chronic problem Examples include sore throat and insect bites

We regret that there are times when your visit to the Emergency Department may take several hours. Your wait time depends on the number of doctors we have on duty, the number of patients that are waiting for care, and the amount or type of care they require. Your wait is also longer if you require an x-ray or blood test, if you need to see a specialist, or if you need to be admitted.

The Emergency Department may appear quiet in the waiting room, but it may be very busy in the area where patients are being treated. We are doing our best to care for you as quickly as possible. Your co-operation helps us provide more timely care.


On occasion, our Emergency Department gets backed up for several reasons. Sometimes the volume of patients in the emergency department exceeds our capacity as defined by the number of physicians, nurses and treatment beds available. Sometimes there are no available acute care beds in the hospital to accept patients from the Emergency Department.

At times, there may be a wait for diagnostic testing (X-ray) or laboratory results. Sometimes the volume of emergency patients in the top triage categories ties up our emergency resources. In any of these cases, patients can expect a longer wait for service.

Speak with a nurse if you decide to leave without seeing a doctor.

  • Tell the Triage Nurse immediately if your condition changes or you begin to feel worse.
  • Don’t leave the ED without telling the Triage Nurse and having your condition re-evaluated.
  • Don’t eat or drink anything without speaking to the Triage Nurse first — some tests cannot be performed if you have consumed food or beverages.
  • Wash your hands frequently with a cleansing solution provided in the waiting area and throughout the ED. Handwashing is key to prevent and control the spread of infection.
  • Have only one friend or family member wait with you, if possible. This will help reduce your own level of stress and prevent overcrowding.
  • If possible, leave young children at home in the care of an appropriate person.
  • Please be respectful and courteous to other patients and hospital staff.
  • It is difficult to estimate how long your wait will be. Wait times can vary, and change quickly, due to a number of factors, including:
    • The severity of each patient’s condition or illness
    • The number of other patients seeking medical attention
    • Whether you require diagnostic or lab tests, such as a CT scan or blood work
    • Traffic accidents with numerous casualties or patients arriving with life- or limb-threatening conditions who need immediate medical attention
    • The time of day; mornings tend to be less busy than evenings. Weekends also tend to be busier when family doctors are not on duty.
  • It may appear quiet in the waiting room, but it may be very busy in the area where patients are being treated. 
  • We are doing our best to care for you as quickly as possible. Your co-operation helps us provide more timely care. Please be respectful of our staff and other patients and visitors.
  • The presence of family members can be a great source of assistance for staff and comfort for the patient. Family participation in care improves the quality of life and quality of care.
    • The nurse will allow visitors depending on the condition of the patient
    • Parents or guardians may accompany a child who is five years old or younger
    • One parent or guardian may accompany a child who is 5-16 years of age
    • All other visitors will be asked to wait in the waiting room
  • The Emergency Department reserves the right to limit visitation, and visitors may be asked to leave at any time.
  • The safety and privacy of our patients is a priority when our medical and nursing staff make decisions regarding the visiting of patients; please be considerate of decisions made by our team.

Security is visible and available for the safety of patients, visitors and staff. Feel free to approach them with any security concerns or questions.

SAH is committed to providing a safe, respectful environment for all staff and patients. Abuse will not be tolerated.

  • A valid Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) card covers most hospital services, but there are a few things that are not covered:
    • Ambulance charge of $45 (OHIP covers the remainder of the cost)
    • Medical equipment such as crutches, casts, knee immobilizers
    • Charges for a semi-private or private room if requested by the patient
    • Transportation home from the hospital
    • Sick Notes; physician-directed fee
  • If you are not covered by OHIP or your OHIP card has expired, you will be charged for your hospital visit as well as a physician fee.
  • If you receive any of these services, you will be required to make payment before you leave the hospital.
  • Ontario Health Card (OHIP Card)
  • Medical insurance information if you live outside Ontario
  • List of current medications
  • Any records you have regarding your health or Personal Health Information Card
  • Private health insurance cards
  • Source of payment for non-covered services.
  • Please, leave all valuables at home.