Guelph General Hospital anticipating a busy holiday season in the ER

The holiday season is one of the busiest times of the year for malls, grocery stores and airports, and hospitals are no different.

With their emergency department expected to reach max volumes over the next few weeks, Guelph General Hospital has some tips for residents.

Chief of emergency, Dr. Ian Digby, said the common sense prescription to potential patients is for them to be prepared.

“By being prepared, people can avoid an emergency visit completely or greatly improve their experience if they do need emergency care over the holidays,” he said in a phone interview on Thursday.

Some recommendations include stocking up on prescriptions and also non-prescription drugs, like pain medications and anti-inflammatories.

Digby said that’s especially important heading into the flu season.

“We encourage people to try their best to manage their symptoms at home before coming to seek care for what really is a nasty cold,” he said. “Sometimes you do need to come and if you are feeling very unwell, short of breath or have chest pain, we want to see you for sure.”

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People with medical equipment, like inhalers and respirators, should also check that they are in good working order.

There are also services that residents can take advantage of in non-critical situations, instead of heading straight to the hospital.

The city offers several primary care clinics and walk-in clinics. There is also TeleHealth Ontario which connects patients to medical professionals.

Digby said their emergency department will prioritize patients based on their illness or injury.

“At this time of the year, the hospital sees a lot of patients coming in because of the cold weather, slip and fall injuries, and there are a lot of respiratory illnesses that are rising,” he added, noting the bed space challenges the hospital faces.

“Currently, we have about 65,000 patient visits a year and our hospital was built for only about 46,000.”

If an emergency visit is necessary, Digby stresses patients need to bring their health card, insurance information and an up-to-date list of medication.

They also need to pack some patience.

“We really don’t want people to come with an expectation that it’s going to be quick in and quick out. Sometimes our wait times are quite lengthy,” Digby said.

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