Patients complain about longer than usual wait times in GTA emergency rooms
Published Wednesday, January 4, 2017 12:08PM EST Last Updated Wednesday, January 4, 2017 6:09PM EST
Some Greater Toronto Area hospitals say they are experiencing a significant uptick in emergency room visits that began over the holidays and has continued into the first few days of 2017.
Lakeridge Health in Oshawa set up a command post on Tuesday as it struggled to deal with what it said was a “record number” of emergency room visits.
The hospital said that it has had up to 60 people in its emergency room awaiting beds in recent days with the higher than usual volume likely to continue for the “foreseeable future.”
Meanwhile, officials at East York General Hospital told CP24 on Wednesday that it has seen about 232 emergency room patients a day over the last week, which equates to about 20 extra patients per day.
Discussing the rise in patient volume with CP24, emergency room physician Dr. Brett Belchetz said it is a trend that is being observed right across the country.
“This is something we are hearing about across the GTA and also across the country. The Toronto area isn’t even the most hard-hit. We have been hearing that some of the western provinces are much more hard-hit than us,” he said. “That said across the GTA, including the hospitals I work at, we are seeing a tremendous spike in volumes coming into the emergency room over the last week or two.”
Belchetz said hospitals usually see a spike in emergency room visits over the holidays due to the fact that many other medical facilities, including doctor’s officers are closed.
He said the problem this year is that a bump in flu cases has “compounded” the problem and has left many hospitals struggling to deal with record patient volume.
“We are getting hit hard by the flu and it more so than we are used to seeing at this particular time and it comes right as we are struggling to clean up from the holidays,” he said.
Trillium Health Partners, which has locations in Mississauga and Toronto, has also been grappling with increased demand due high volumes of patients with flu-like symptoms.
In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, the hospital said they have opened up additional beds, increased on-hand staff and set up a command centre to ‘actively manage the challenge.’
“Every flu season we prepare for an increase in demand for services. Over the past week we have had influenza outbreaks on two of our units and are experiencing high volumes than usual with an average of 916 visits in the last two days to our three sites,” the release states.
The hospital has reportedly confirmed 68 cases of Influenza A, which they say is “higher than usual” for the hospital at this time of year.
“We are also actively engaging with our patients and community to explain they may experience wait times and to educate them on their alternate health care options, such as a family doctor or urgent care centre,” it reads.
Among the overcrowded hospitals is Michael Garron Hospital in East York.
The head of the emergency room there, Dr. Paul Hannam, told CTV News Toronto that they see the biggest surge in patients after Christmas.
"I would say emergency rooms across the city are extremely busy right now," Dr. Hannam said. "(But) the peak of the flu season we're expecting in about two to three weeks from now."
Though many hospitals have reported a spike in ER visits, an official at Mount Sinai Hospital told CP24 that their patient volume over the last week is consistent with what they usually see during the holidays and is “nothing extraordinary.”