Emergency and Urgent Care
Your Guide to Emergency and Urgent Care
We recognize that a visit to an Emergency Department can be stressful for you and your family, especially during medical emergencies.
Our healthcare team will serve you as quickly as we can, and we will make every effort to make your visit a positive experience.
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See inside the St. Catharines Site Emergency and Urgent Care
Understanding your medical options will help you get the right care as quickly as possible.
Emergency Departments treat the sickest patients first. Patients with life- or limb-threatening injuries or illnesses are treated first, followed by those with less urgent illnesses or medical conditions.
Did you know … our Emergency Departments and Urgent Care Centres are open 24/7? They had more than 190,000 visits over the past year. That’s an average of 520 per day.
If your medical problem isn’t urgent, you may want to consider alternatives other than the Emergency Department.
Minor illnesses and injuries can often be treated more quickly through:
Using any of these options for minor medical issues helps alleviate pressure on Emergency Departments and reduces wait times for everyone.
For advice on the right place to receive the care you need, you can get help through these sources:
Did you know … almost half of the patients at our EDs and UCCs are between the ages of 18 and 54, and almost one quarter are aged 65 and older.
Our specialized ED teams treat patients who come in following a 9-1-1 call and arrive by ambulance.
They also treat walk-in patients for emergencies including:
Did you know … the top three reasons people visited our Emergency Departments over the past year were for abdominal and pelvic pain, throat and chest pains, and acute upper respiratory infections.
Urgent care is medical attention and treatment for people experiencing less serious illnesses and injuries.
Experienced Emergency Department doctors and nurses provide urgent care. They have access to services such as X-ray, lab tests and pharmacy.
No appointments are necessary.
Did you know … wait times are typically shorter in our Urgent Care Centres than in our Emergency Departments.
Did you know … not all ER visits are actually emergencies. Almost 25,000 visits last year were for minor conditions and concerns that could have been treated more quickly by a family doctor, at a walk-in clinic or elsewhere in the community.
In all medical emergencies, call 9-1-1.
When in doubt, call 9-1-1.
Niagara Emergency Medical Services (EMS) has the right system in place to ensure patients are safely cared for when they need emergency medical help.
Paramedics provide emergency pre-hospital medical care to stabilize a patient’s condition at the scene and during transport to hospital.
It is difficult to estimate how long your wait will be. Wait times can vary, and change quickly, due to a number of factors, including:
It may appear quiet in the waiting room, but it may be very busy in the area where patients are being treated.
We are doing our best to care for you as quickly as possible. Your co-operation helps us provide more timely care. Please be respectful of our staff and other patients and visitors.
Did you know … almost 34,000 patients arrived at our EDs last year by ambulance.
The first step for all patients arriving at an Emergency Department/Urgent Care is to be assessed by a Triage Nurse.
The Triage Nurse will evaluate your condition and prioritize your medical need.
Patients are seen on a priority basis, not on a first-come first-served basis. This ensures the sickest patients get the care they need first — even though they may arrive at the ED after other patients.
To evaluate your medical needs, the Triage Nurse will ask you for details about:
The nurse will also check your temperature, pulse or blood pressure during the triage process.
Did you know … The word ‘triage’ comes from the French word ‘trier’ and means to separate, sift or select.
Triage nurses across Canada use the Canadian Triage and Acuity Scale (CTAS) to evaluate medical urgency. There are five triage levels, No. 1 being the most critical and No. 5 being non-urgent.
Critical — obviously life threatening
Conditions requiring resuscitation, including cardiac arrest, shock and major trauma
Emergent — potential threat to life or limb
Examples include asthma, altered mental state, chest pain suggestive of heart problems
Urgent — a condition or serious problem requiring emergency intervention
Examples include abdominal pain, mild dehydration, kidney stone or shortness of breath
Less Urgent — conditions which because of distress or potential for complications would benefit from intervention
Examples include vomiting and diarrhea with no dehydration, bladder infections, lacerations and earaches
Non Urgent — conditions which are non-urgent and/or which might be part of a chronic problem
Examples include sore throat and insect bites
Did you know … The majority of our ED and Urgent Care patients last year (91,646) were Triaged as Level 3.
Most people arriving at an Emergency Department will follow these steps:
You may be requested to wait between some of these stages.
If you have respiratory symptoms, you may be asked to wear a mask. This is for the safety of others in the waiting room.
Did you know … Approximately one if every 10 patients who come to our EDs are admitted directly to the hospital.
Providing a quality patient experience is a top priority for our Emergency Department physicians, staff and volunteers.
Here are some of the things we’ve done to reduce wait times and improve your hospital experience:
Did you know … We are focusing on improving the patient experience, from the ED to discharge, and implementing creative solutions to ensure patients have safe and prompt attention to their healthcare needs.
The Niagara Health System has created a Personal Emergency Information Card to help prepare you for a health emergency. Copies of the card are available in the ED and can also be downloaded and printed here. You are encouraged to keep it up to date and carry it in your wallet.
Filling out a Personal Emergency Information Card will help emergency responders and hospital personnel ensure your treatment is appropriate and respects your wishes.
A valid Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) card covers most hospital services, but there are a few things that are not covered:
If you are not covered by OHIP or your OHIP card has expired, you will be charged for your hospital visit as well as a physician fee.
If you receive any of these services, please see the cashier to make payment before you leave the hospital.
Compliments or concerns?
Your feedback is vital to help us make your experience the best it can possibly be.
Have a question or concern with care at the NHS? Please contact Patient Relations by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 905.378.4647 ext. 44423.