Kitchener-Waterloo

Cambridge Memorial Hospital tells people to avoid its ER because of very high patient loads

Cambridge Memorial Hospital is suggesting people avoid its emergency department as wait times are much higher than normal due to high patient volumes and ongoing staffing shortages.

 People should look for alternate health care options says hospital CEO

Hospital president and CEO Patrick Gaskin says patients in a "life and limb situation" or who may be having a heart attack or have a significant emergency should still come to the hospital. Patients with less serious issues may be waiting 12 hours. (Submitted by Cambridge Memorial Hospital )

Cambridge Memorial Hospital is asking people to "find alternate health-care options," if they can, as wait times in its emergency room are very long. 

Patrick Gaskin, the President and CEO at Cambridge Memorial Hospital, said staff are out sick with COVID-19 and higher patient volumes are affecting emergency room operations. He said patients with less severe ailments could be in for at least a 12-hour wait.

Gaskin said patients in a "life and limb situation," or who may be having a heart attack or have a significant emergency should still come to the hospital. 

The president and CEO of the Ontario Hospital Association has said many Ontario hospitals are experiencing "an unprecedented escalation of staffing pressures right now" and are working to develop temporary measures to help maintain services.

"Hospitals are here to serve and will continue to do everything possible to meet the needs of the people of Ontario," Dale added.

In some cases the strain has forced hospitals to close overnight. This past weekend two Ottawa-area hospitals and one in Grey County were among those that closed their emergency departments for periods of time over the weekend.

Other hospitals have adjusted or limited services hours as staffing has been a struggle through the summer months.

Cambridge Memorial Hosptial posted its alert at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday after an unprecedented number of patients needing inpatient care. It added "all patients will be seen in priority order should they require emergency care." 

"Generally, the hospital will have somewhere between five and ten inpatients at any one time, and that's a kind of a normal flow within the organization," Gaskin told CBC Kitchener-Waterloo.

"But overnight, in terms of just the number of patients that we saw ... It brought us to an all time high this morning. We have 22 patients who require inpatient care."

Gaskin says the hospital's emergency department has 40 stations where it can assess patients, but half of them are being used for inpatient care. 

That "slows down the flow of staff seeing patients," he said.

Gaskin said he plans to redeploy staff within the hospital and bring in physicians to support the emergency department.

Gaskin says this situation is expected to last until at least Wednesday.

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