Staff inside the emergency department at the Health Sciences Centre in St. John's are asking patients to complain about long wait times or get used to the new reality.
That's according to Wade Kearley of St. John's, who wants more people to know about his personal experience inside the emergency waiting room while there with his wife, Katherine on Monday.
Kearley told CBC News he woke up on Monday to find Katherine in extreme pain. By mid-morning, the couple were on their way to the emergency room.
About nine hours later, Katherine was seen by a doctor.
"The first impression, it's almost like sometimes you see war zones and there's a tent with the triage for that area. That's like what was going on," he said.
"At one point during the day, someone from the staff came out and actually announced to the whole room, 'ladies and gentlemen, this is the way that it is. Unless we start complaining and doing something, this is the new reality.'"
Kearley said his wife is doing better on Wednesday, but spent another five hours in the ER on Tuesday when the line moved at a faster pace. She is going through chemotherapy treatments, is immunocompromised and is having to wait in close proximity of those reporting COVID-like symptoms to the ER staff.
Kearley said staff didn't make the couple feel rushed. But, he said, the doctor painted a bleak picture of what the health-care situation is like in Newfoundland and Labrador right now.
"I said to the doctor, 'it's like you guys are expected to perform magic but there's only a few wands to go around,'" he said.
"The doctor said 'there's not a few wands. There's only one and it's broken and it's patched with scotch tape."
ERs are busier on Mondays: Eastern Health
Kearley said hearing first-hand from hospital staff about how tough the situation is on them made him understand the emergency department in a completely new way.
He said the emergency room itself is the emergency.
"What's going on in there is not right. We're out of resources. It leaves me speechless," he said.
"For the staff to have to say that to people, and for the doctor to have to respond in that way when someone makes an off-hand comment, what is that saying? We all need to think about it and take some personal action on our own part."
Kearley said a staff member told him the ER generally treats between 120 and 150 people a day. He said on Monday about 230 people were seen.
In a statement to CBC News, Eastern Health said 45 people were in the waiting room on Monday as of 4:30 p.m. specifically.
The health authority said that number isn't out of the ordinary "considering that emergency departments typically receive higher volumes of patients on Mondays."
Kearley is hoping more people will voice their concerns. He said he's encouraging people who want to see improved ER rooms to speak up.
"Having the staff say you've got to speak up, well, that's what I'm doing."