Wait times for the emergency departments at both campuses of Windsor Regional Hospital are longer than average and ambulances are being delayed due to overcrowding.

Staff had admitted 23 more patients than they had beds as of 6 a.m., according to hospital CEO David Musyj.

"The buildup of volumes and census has been constant since the new year. However, the last 24-48 hours has indicated a dramatic surge in volumes and acuity across Windsor/Essex acute hospitals," wrote Musyj in a note to staff.

The Met campus was at 118 per cent capacity Tuesday morning, with 11 patients without a bed and 74 patients in the emergency room.

The Ouellette campus was at 104 per cent, with 12 patients without a bed and 50 patients waiting in the emergency room.

Ambulances waiting hours to offload

Bruce Krauter, chief of Essex-Windsor EMS, said the entire healthcare system is feeling the strain of a surge in flu patients.

"We're having three, four, five ambulances at offload delay at the hospital site, not for 10 minutes, they're on offload delay for three, four, five hours waiting to get a bed or a chair," he explained.

On Monday night the delay at the ER was much worse — stretching to 11 hours in some cases, he added.

The ambulance service has enacted surge protocols to meet the demand. Paramedics are triaging patients, moving some with non-urgent needs to the emergency room at Erie Shores Healthcare in Leamington and even adding more ambulances "at a moment's notice."

Krauter said one way people can help is by visiting their family doctor or a clinic, rather than adding to the backlog at hospital emergency rooms.

"It's a very large problem, we're handling it. We're doing good, we're keeping our head above water, but at any time if we have a major surge, if there's a major car accident and we have multiple patients, if the weather gets bad ... that's going to put a pressure on the entire system."