A reform that was meant to reduce ER wait times last year ago has yet to deliver on its promises.

According to new data compiled by the Journal de Montreal, wait times in Quebec hospitals have barely changed in the past five years.

The average wait time in an emergency room in Quebec is 15.3 hours in 2016. In 2015, the average wait was nearly the same: 15.4 hours.

  • In Montreal that number climbs to 17.2 hours (it was 17 last year).
  • Pointe-Claire, home to the Lakeshore General, had the longest wait time of any city in Quebec with 24.7 hours.
  • Valleyfield followed behind with 24.3 hours.
  • St-Jerome faced the same long wait at 24.1 hours.

in 2015, Health Minister Gaetan Barrette gave nurses new powers, allowing them to treat wounds, order lab tests and prescribe some medications including contraceptives, and treat people with sexually transmitted diseases. The initiative was meant to reduce overcrowding in Quebec emergency rooms, but appears to have had no effect.

“If you are waiting on a stretcher, you are not in critical condition, but you need medical attention. Why are you waiting? Because there are no medical resources available. So that’s the challenge of the minister, that’s the challenge of the doctors,” said patients’ rights advocate Paul Brunet.

Barrette agreed the improvement is less than he would like, but he promised to make changes if wait times fail to significantly decrease by early next year.

"We will make decisions and intervene if necessary, and this will happen anytime between January 1st 2017  and June 30th 2017," said the Minister.

Those changes are unlikely to include putting more doctors in ERs. Barrette reiterated that clinics should be getting more doctors -- and that more patients should be going to clinics first instead of to hospital emergency rooms.

In June, Quebec’s independent health watchdog slammed the province for having the longest emergency room wait times in the western world.

In a cutting final briefing before his job was eliminated as part of provincial budget cuts, Robert Salois found that 35 per cent of Quebecers wait more than five hours to see a doctor in the ER.

In 2015, about 45 per cent of all ER visits, 1.5 million, were longer than the maximum time recommended by Quebec’s health department. In Ontario, only 15 per cent of patients wait that long.