Most Ontarians don’t know where the nearest urgent care centre is — poll

Do you know where your nearest urgent care centre? Most Ontarians don’t.

In the May Vector poll, 62 per cent of Ontarians said they were not sure where their nearest urgent care centre.

Urgent care centres are intended to relieve pressure on hospital emergency departments by providing care for people who require urgent medical attention but do not have a life-threatening condition.

Having an urgent care centre does not mean communities are willing to give up their hospital emergency department.

Asked how concerned they would be if an urgent care centre replaced their emergency department, 65 per cent said they would be very or somewhat concerned.  That number was slightly higher in the Hamilton-Niagara area. The closure of two Niagara-area hospital ERs and a teen fatality following a boxing day car crash has led to extensive local debate over this issue.

The poll also asked how confident individuals were in making a self-diagnosis to determine whether they should go to an urgent care centre or a hospital. Thirty-seven per cent of Ontarians were very confident they would make the right decision, while a little over one in ten said they were not too confident or not confident at all.

In the UK the College of Emergency Medicine, which represents emergency doctors, told the Daily Telegraph in 2009 that it was concerned “urgent care” centres were acting as barriers to getting needed treatment for seriously ill patients.

“In emergency departments we are used to seeing patients who may develop serious complications,” John Heyworth, president of the CEM told the newspaper. “We want to make sure GPs appreciate the risks and handle things very carefully.

Ambulances have been reluctant to take UK patients to urgent care centres, preferring to take them to hospital emergency departments.

The poll was taken between May 6-17, 2010.  The Vector polls uses a sample of 1,101 adults across Canada, 500 in Ontario.

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