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The Emergency Room in Vancouver: When to Go to the ER



You now know that your MSP covers hospital visits, ambulances and the Emergency Room (ER). So what is next? How about knowing when it is the right circumstance to go to the ER. There's nothing worse than feeling sick or injured and not knowing where to turn for help. We have been there! Not knowing when to call the ambulance and whether to go to the hospital or to wait it out. It is just stressful and scary to think about.

We want you to have all the information you need to ease your mind, starting with identifying what is an emergency, different types of medical emergencies,


What is an emergency?

Examples of emergencies are fires, car accidents, medical emergencies, natural disasters, burglaries, or violent crimes. As you can probably see, all of these require you to call 9-1-1. However, sometimes it can be confusing for you to identify an emergency, especially when you are in the middle of it. Therefore, don't hesitate to call 9-1-1, explain the situation, and they can help assess and guide you through it.

Here are tips from the CRTC on what to do when you call 9-1-1:

  • Tell the 9-1-1 operator the nature and location of the emergency as soon as they ask for it.

  • Give the 9-1-1 operator your phone number, so that if the call gets disconnected, they can call you back.

  • Stay on the line and follow instructions unless the 9-1-1 operator asks you to hang up.

  • If you get disconnected, call back.

Different types of medical emergencies


There are different types of medical emergencies, which can be classified by how soon they need medical attention. Here is an overview of the different types of emergencies:


  • Life-threatening emergencies: These are emergencies that could result in something serious if not treated immediately. Examples are chest pain, choking, severe bleeding, and stroke.


  • Time-sensitive emergencies: These are emergencies that need to be treated within a certain time frame to avoid serious consequences. Time-sensitive emergencies include broken bones, seizures, and heart attacks.

  • Less urgent emergencies: These are conditions that may not be life-threatening but still require medical attention. Less urgent emergency examples include cuts that need stitches, high fevers, and moderate dehydration.

When should you go to the hospital?

It is advisable to go to the hospital when your symptoms seem severe and you feel like you can’t wait to go to a walk-in clinic. Although with MSP it’s free to go to the hospital, remember that by occupying a bed there you might be taking it away from someone in a life threatening condition. But if you are feeling ill, don’t feel like an inconvenience and go to the hospital.

Here is list of systems that you must go to the ER for:

  • Trouble breathing, or catching your breath

  • Severe abdominal or chest pain/pressure

  • Weakness or tingling on one side of your body

  • Loss of consciousness

  • Heavy bleeding

What should I do when I get to the ER?


If you end up at the ER we’re sure it will be confusing, so here’s what to expect.

  1. Talk to the people by the ER main door and answer their questions.

  2. Queue for the reception so you can get registered.

  3. Register by giving information on your symptoms and showing your MSP card.

  4. Sit down, wait to be called, and you will receive instructions on which wing to go to

  5. Grab the paper they give you and deliver it to the reception area in the wing they sent you to.

  6. Sit down and wait to be called.


We honestly hope you never end up visiting the emergency room. However, if you do, hopefully this quick guide will make you feel more confident going through the process of calling emergency services and entering the ER.


Remember that you can also help doctors by preemptively treating minor injuries. Therefore, we recommend going to your closest drug store and buying a medical kit.


If you are unsure if a health concern is an emergency, call HealthLink BC at 8-1-1 for advice.


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