Queensway Carleton Hospital exceeds capacity

The Queensway Carleton Hospital has declared a Code Orange, meaning it's exceeded capacity and is advising patients to consider other options before heading to the hospital's emergency room.

Hospital advising of long waits in emergency room, asks patients to consider if clinics would be better

The Queensway Carleton Hospital is seeing a high volume of patients being admitted with the flu. (Danny Globerman/CBC)

The Queensway Carleton Hospital has declared a Code Orange, meaning it's exceeded capacity and is advising patients to consider other options before heading to the hospital's emergency room.

"All of our beds are currently full, every one of them," said hospital spokesperson Ann Fuller. 

"All of our extra surge beds  that hospitals put in place when it's flu or viral season are also full. On top of that now we have 20 patients who are admitted to the hospital but are on a stretcher in emergency, waiting for a bed to open up elsewhere in the hospital."

Fuller said the Code Orange is hospital protocol to allow for extra staff to be called in. It also allows for "unconventional" spaces to be used to temporarily house patients, Fuller said.

"We have a group of patients that are in a waiting room in [the imaging department] that's been converted into a mini-inpatient unit," she said. "We're looking at doing something similar up in day surgery and moving inpatients over there."

Emergency room visits nears record

This is only the second time since the protocol was introduced that a Code Orange has been declared. The first time was in January, according to a hospital news release.

The number of patients visiting the hospital's emergency room is at an unusually high level, the hospital said. On Sunday the hospital's emergency room saw 272 patients, nearing the one-day record. 

"We're definitely facing a capacity issue this year," Fuller said.

The hospital attributes the high volume to a large number of flu admissions, as well as an unusually high number of patients waiting to be admitted to long-term care facilities.

Those patients, who occupy hospital beds that could otherwise be occupied by new admission, are often called "bed blockers."

Fuller advised people to consider visiting walk-in clinics or their family doctors over the weekend instead of coming to the hospital, and warned of longer-than-usual waits at the hospital's emergency room.

The Ottawa Hospital said its emergency rooms are busy, but haven't reached the same levels as the Queensway Carleton.

Outaouais patients forced to move

In the Outaouais, the Centre de santé et de services sociaux de l'Outaouais announced Friday it's taking emergency steps to free up beds that are being occupied because of the tough flu season. 

The measures include forcing patients to move to other facilities, according to Daniel Tardif, associate president and CEO of the regional health authority.

"We don't control the flu, we control our environment, our establishment. We brought a number of measures, it did work and now we're getting stuck again," Tardif said.

"So we bring another level of measures. Things we would've preferred not to do, like forcing transfer of patients from one place to the other so we can have beds available."

Daniel Tardif of the CISSSO talks about what's been happening since their last anti-flu measures were announced a few weeks ago. 1:08

Patients will be subject to mandatory transfer from beds at urban care centres to beds in outlying regions. Patients subject to transfers will have some input on where they will be moved.

The Gatineau and Hull hospitals are at 136 per cent capacity, according to the authority. Tardif said the virus is "lingering" this season.

There have been 112 reported cases of flu in the last week, and a total of 839 cases since the beginning of the season, according to the health authority.

The regional health authority is also encouraging patients to consider walk-in clinics or family physicians before coming to the emergency room, so hospitals can concentrate on patients with severe complications.