TORONTO - Too many people in Ontario are still waiting too long for the medical care they need, the Ontario Health Quality Council said Thursday in its 2010 annual report.

The council, an independent, arm's-length agency, said progress had been made in reducing wait times for some surgeries and procedures, but others were still unacceptably long.

Only 53 per cent of urgent cancer cases are completed within the two-week target, one-quarter of people spend more time in the emergency department than is recommended or desirable, and the wait time for a long-term care bed is three times what it was in 2005, said council chair Lynn McLeod.

"It is obvious that the system has some significant issues to address," said McLeod. "In many areas of care too many people still wait too long."

The report found about six per cent of patients left the emergency department before they were seen by anyone because they got tired of waiting.

The tripling of the wait time for a long-term care placement means alternative level of care patients are taking up a valuable hospital bed, creating backlogs all the way to the emergency departments, said McLeod.

"The issue of roadblocks to patient flow in long-term care is one of our principle concerns this year, especially as it is causing backlogs in other areas of the health-care system," she said.

"The problem is rippling through the system as patients are kept in hospital beds waiting for long-term placement."

Patients in a hospital who need a long-term care bed wait an average of 105 days, but for people who are still living at home, the wait is 173 days or almost half a year.

Sixteen per cent of all hospital beds in Ontario are occupied by patients who do not need to be in hospital, and the report says this problem has worsened in the last three years.

The government is working to address the problem, said Health Minister Deb Matthews.

"The emergency room alternative level of care challenge is one that hospitals across the province are feeling, but they’re also taking steps to reduce (it)," Matthews told reporters.

"There’s no question that what we need to do is build the continuum of support for people so hospitals are there for people when they need that acute care, and the long-term care homes are really going to be there for the long term."

The Opposition called the report "a damning indictment" of the Liberal government's failure to deal with the need for more long-term care facilities in their seven years in office.

"We’ve got 25,000 people who are waiting for long-term placement, 6,000 of whom are in acute care hospitals," said Progressive Conservative health critic Christine Elliott.

"Imagine the cost of that and the waste — including the fact it’s not a fair way to treat people — the waste of having all those people in an acute care facility when they don’t need to be there is backing up our emergency rooms and a lot of people aren’t getting care."

The New Democrats said the number of people clogging the system and waiting for long-term care beds was appalling and blamed the Liberals for making changes to Ontario's home care system.

"The solutions are not within the hospital sector," said NDP health critic France Gelinas. 'When they brought in competitive bidding, they destroyed our home care system, so people end up in the hospital and we end up with the mess we have now."

The Health Quality Council also found there are still 730,000 adults in Ontario without a family doctor, even though half of them are actively looking for a physician.