Vanessa and Janicije Karic's son had a bad allergic reaction to eggs. But, while they rushed their six-month-old son to Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children, they didn't see a doctor until about 11 hours later. 

“It was scary. It was scary for the fact that we didn’t know how bad it could be. We didn’t know whether he was anaphylactic or not because this was his first time eating solid foods,” Vanessa Karic told CTV News Toronto's Sean Leathong in an interview.

They arrived to SickKids at around 8:30 p.m. on Jan. 25 and said they were told the wait time would be about four hours.

But, as they sat in the waiting room, the Karics said that time continually grew hour after hour, which they were keeping track of through an online app. They saw the wait time double to eight hours, then eventually hit more than 11 hours as the wait room filled with parents and their children.

“Parents losing patience, parents crying, parents getting angry,” the child’s father said. “It’s frustrating, very frustrating.”


'We're really angry'

The Karics finally saw a doctor for their son Lucius on Friday morning, at around 8 a.m.

“The first thing she said is, ‘I’m so sorry. I started my shift at 4 a.m. and there’s around 58, 60 patients here and I’m all alone,” he recalled.

In a statement provided to CTV News Toronto, SickKids said unexpected surges in patient volumes can increase wait times “for patients with lower acuity complaints or concerns,” adding its emergency department staffing model is built to match predicted patient arrivals (done through the use of data and analytics).

“We also employ a backup system to manage staffing if team members are unable to work or if there is an unexpected increase in patient volumes, ensuring that a minimum staffing level is always maintained,” the statement reads in part.

The Karics, while upset by their hours-long wait, say they’re speaking out to air their frustrations against the province.

“Not at the nurses, not at the doctors, not at SickKids, just at our government,” Janicije Karic said.

“We’re really angry at our government.”

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Health responded to CTV News Toronto's inquiry on what the province is doing to address wait times and how it is expanding pediatric care.

“While Ontario is leading the country with some of the shortest wait times in Canada, we know more needs to be done,” the emailed statement reads.

The ministry adds it has included an additional $44 million to address emergency department wait times this fiscal year and $330 million in permanent funding for pediatric care across Ontario, including at SickKids, to boost capacity and hire more health care workers.

However, earlier this month, several Ontario hospitals warned of longer wait times and higher-than-usual numbers of patients in their emergency departments, and had advised patients to consider other alternatives to the ER if their condition isn’t urgent.

The Canadian Medical Association said ERs are overflowing nationwide and urged provincial governments to step up their efforts to address this crisis – particularly with accessibility to high-quality, team-based primary care.

As for Lucius Karic, he was sent home with an EpiPen and is set to meet with an allergist.

“[We’re] very disappointed, extremely frustrated. I think, if anything, we’re both very angry,” Vanessa Karic said.

With files from CTV News Toronto’s Sean Leathong and The Canadian Press