Emergency Departments across Niagara are seeing a higher number of patients with cardiac conditions and pneumonia, prompting longer wait times in the ERs and the postponement of some elective surgeries as healthcare providers respond to the needs of the sickest patients first.
“This is always a busy time of year for our ERs, and right now we are seeing a higher than usual number of patients who require cardiac-related care,” says Anne Atkinson, Vice President Patient Services with the Niagara Health System. “In addition to this, we are seeing an increase in weather-related ailments, including pneumonia, other respiratory conditions, and breaks and fractures.”
With an increasing number of seriously ill patients coming to the EDs, the care these patients require is more complex, taking significantly more time and resources for blood work, X-rays, CT scans, and other tests and consultations. What goes on in the EDs is also directly related to what occurs in other areas of the hospital, resulting in the postponement of some elective surgeries and the opening of additional intensive care beds, for example, to adjust to the high number of patients requiring intensive care.
“In order to maintain our ability to provide quality and safe patient care, we are appealing to the public to help our physicians, nurses and other professional staff ensure they receive the best possible emergency medical care,” says Anne.
Understanding how to use the ED can help make a visit go much smoother. ED care is for serious illness or injury such as chest pain, difficulty breathing, severe pain, sudden, severe headaches, vision problems, sudden weakness, trouble speaking, dizziness, numbness and/or tingling in the face, arm or leg and critical conditions, such as loss of blood.
Patients with less serious illness or injuries are encouraged to use our Urgent Care Centres at Douglas Memorial Site in Fort Erie, Ontario Street Site in St. Catharines or Port Colborne General Site. The Urgent Care Centres offer medical treatment for adults and children experiencing urgent, but non-life threatening complaints. Conditions that are treated include fever, cough, sore throats, ear aches, strains and sprains, cuts and broken bones.
The Canadian Triage and Acuity Scale (CTAS), used by the NHS and hospitals across Canada, is designed to systematically ensure that patients who need the most immediate care are assessed by physicians first. How soon patients are seen by a doctor depends on how sick or how badly injured they are, not on the time that they arrived in the ED. Patients will not be seen sooner because they arrived by ambulance. The sickest patients are always seen first.
Niagara Health’s three ERs and three Urgent Care Centres saw a combined total of almost 190,000 patients last year. Approximately one in every 10 ER patients are admitted to hospital in Niagara.
“There is no question that our EDs face tremendous pressures, like EDs across the country,” says Anne. “Despite all of the challenges, Niagara’s healthcare team is fully committed to providing quality, safe patient care. We are working very hard with our LHIN and on various initiatives to enhance emergency medical care for our patients.”