GBHS asks patients with minor problems to avoid coming to the emergency room

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Gray Bruce Health Services is asking patients with minor issues to avoid going to the emergency room if they have alternatives.

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Understaffing and increased demand for care in emergency rooms prompted the hospital corporation to recall that emergency departments are for “urgent health issues,” according to a press release on Wednesday.

“GBHS is seeing increased wait times in emergency departments at its six hospitals, and many patients are arriving with minor health conditions that do not require urgent care,” GBHS said.

Its hospitals are in Owen Sound, with rural hospitals in Lion’s Head, Wiarton, Southampton, Meaford and Markdale.

“To reduce ER wait times and ensure critical patients receive the care they need, the public is encouraged to seek alternatives to the ER for minor health issues.”

Dr Sunil Mehta, Chief of Emergency Department at Owen Sound Hospital, said: “Our emergency departments are busier than usual and, like hospitals in Ontario, many of our departments are understaffed. If you have a medical emergency, dial 9-1-1 immediately. If you have a minor problem that can be treated by your family doctor, please try this option first.

Patients who arrive at the GBHS emergency room with a minor problem could wait several hours, the statement said.

For minor health issues that don’t require immediate attention, try calling 8-1-1, the number for Health Connect Ontario – formerly Telehealth – the provincial phone line, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week , where patients can speak directly to a nurse for advice.

When in doubt, nurses can help determine whether an emergency room visit is recommended, the hospital company’s statement said.

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Virtual visits with a GBHS doctor are also available every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

“Virtual emergency care is a great option for those who need to see a doctor, but can’t see their family doctor or aren’t sick enough to go to the emergency room,” the statement said.

Users need a phone or other device with audio and video capability to connect with the doctor. In most cases, virtual care is faster than waiting in an emergency room, the statement said. Patients of all ages can use this free program, with children under 18 requiring an adult to register.

Patients must first register online on the GBHS website before getting a virtual appointment: https://www.gbhs.on.ca/virtual-urgent-care/

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