More patients with flu-like illness coming to NHS ERs and Urgent Care Centres

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Posted Oct 23rd, 2009

Niagara, On: Healthcare officials at the Niagara Health System (NHS) are asking for the public’s understanding and patience during this current period of high activity in the hospital’s Emergency Rooms (ER) and Urgent Care Centres (UCC).

Wait times for patients in all three of Niagara Health’s ERs and three UCCs have steadily increased across all sites through the past several days due to the increase in patients with flu-like illnesses.

“There has been an increase in the number of patients coming into our ERs and Urgent Care Centres with flu-like symptoms and respiratory illness,“ says Anne Atkinson, Vice President Patient Services. “Most of the patients we are seeing with flu-like illnesses are not critically ill. In most cases, these types of patients are treated and discharged.

“On average, we treat approximately 540 patients a day coming through our ERs and Urgent Care Centres,” says Anne. “This past week, we’ve seen a 13 per cent increase overall in our patient visits in Niagara compared to the same period last year, from 512 to 577 patients every 24 hours.”

This past week has seen a marked increase in patients aged 16 years of age and younger being brought to the ERs and UCCs for treatment.

“For this time of year, we generally treat about 90 children a day through our ERs and UCCs across Niagara,” says Anne. “This past week, we’ve seen an average of 130 children every 24 hours.”

As per the Canadian triage standards that Niagara Health always uses, all patients will continue to be assessed and seen by ER physicians as their condition warrants and not in order of their arrival in the ER or UCC.  Members of the public are reminded that if their condition is stable, they should go to a physician walk-in clinic or an Urgent Care Centre.

More patients with flu-like illness coming to NHS ERs and Urgent Care Centres

The public is also asked not to visit the hospital if they are feeling ill.

Over the next several days, due to the increased ER and UCC visits, as well as the increased number of Niagara Health staff calling in sick, the hospital will be monitoring the services it provides to determine which services may be postponed in order to continue to provide essential care. Services that could be temporarily curtailed could include outpatient clinics. Any of these decisions would be overseen by a Decision Review Team made up of key healthcare leaders.

“Given the nature of healthcare, it stands to reason that hospital staff and doctors are at higher risk of getting ill,” says President and CEO Debbie Sevenpifer. “We are starting to see higher levels of our employees calling in sick. We are monitoring our employee sickness levels because this will be a key factor in determining what essential and non-essential services we can provide. We may need to redeploy staff from the non-essential areas to provide essential services throughout the H1N1 period.”

Niagara Health is working closely with Niagara Region Public Health and other health agencies to appropriately respond to an H1N1 flu outbreak.

Protective measures are in place and our hospital continues to update our procedures as new directives are provided,” says Tracy Fattore, Regional Director of Risk Management and NHS lead for pandemic planning.

For more information, contact:

Caroline Bourque Wiley
Consultant, Public Affairs
905-378-4647, ext. 43113
cwiley@niagarahealth.on.ca

Niagara Health System