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Be prepared for the holiday season

Posted Dec 22nd, 2011

Hospital emergency departments and emergency services personnel across Niagara are extremely busy this time of year. It is important that Niagara residents know the options available to them for emergency and urgent care.

Sometimes it is difficult to know whether your problem is serious. Here are some examples of when to go to the ED or call 911:

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Fractured or broken bones
  • Major injuries
  • Mental health issues
  • Stroke symptoms – dizziness; numbness/tingling in arms, hands, legs; sudden, severe headache; blurred vision; trouble speaking (Greater Niagara General Site is Stroke Centre)

If you need advice, consult your family physician or call Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000. If you have any doubts, call 911 or go to the closest ED.

EDs, open 24/7, are located at the following Niagara Health System sites: Greater Niagara General Site (Niagara Falls), St. Catharines General Site and Welland Site.

Urgent Care Centres in Fort Erie, Port Colborne and St. Catharines

The three Niagara Health Urgent Care Centres are an effective alternative for residents needing non-emergency care. With shorter wait times and fewer patients than EDs, Urgent Care Centres provide medical attention and treatment for unexpected minor illnesses and injuries that are not life-threatening.

Here are some examples: sprains, sports injuries; cuts that may need stitches; minor burns; minor abdominal pain (nausea, vomiting); ear, nose, throat or eye problems; urinary tract infections; fever; coughs and colds, flu.

The Urgent Care locations include Douglas Memorial Site in Fort Erie and Port Colborne Site, both open 24/7. In St. Catharines, the Urgent Care Centre is located at Ontario Street Site, 155 Ontario Street. It is open daily, including weekends and holidays, from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Be prepared for the holidays

Avoid health problems and illness by being prepared. Here is a checklist to consider:

  • Call the doctor’s office and local pharmacy. Find out what their hours will be over the holidays and ask about any back-up coverage arrangements.
  • Get a flu shot. Family doctors can offer this service or refer patients to the nearest clinic that does.
  • Check medications and medical equipment. Make sure that all family members have enough of their medications, both prescription and non-prescription, to last throughout the holiday season. Don’t forget needles, alcohol swabs, etc. Also check inhalers, respirators, oxygen, and glucose testing machines.
  • Have extra batteries on hand for equipment such as electric wheelchairs.
  • Update all emergency telephone numbers and post them in a visible place.

How you can help


  • Have an up-to-date Ontario Health Card when coming to an ED or Urgent Care Centre.
  • Bring a list of all medications being taken on a regular basis, along with any other important information such as allergies.
  • While waiting for treatment, please do not eat or drink without first checking with a nurse.
  • If patients decide to leave the hospital before being seen by a doctor, please speak with a nurse.

Learn more about your healthcare options

The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care website provides information about family health teams, nurse practitioner-led clinics, community health centres, urgent care centres, walk-in clinics and emergency rooms.

Niagara Health System