Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC) says it will be limiting weekend hours at Hotel Dieu Hospital’s urgent care centre due to staffing concerns.
The hospital organization says it’s facing a shortage of emergency medical physicians, and that reducing hours at the urgent care centre will allow better staffing at Kingston General Hospital’s emergency department, which runs 24 hours a day, every day.
KHSC says Hotel Dieu’s urgent care centre will be open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends, while weekday hours will remain 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Due to staffing issues last summer, the urgent care centre began capping the number of patients that can be seen in a day. KHSC says the cap will remain in place during the reduced hours. This means it’s possible the urgent care centre may close earlier than 4 p.m. on weekends.
The cap number changes day to day and is based on the availability of medical professionals, as well as on wait times and the complexity of patients receiving care, KHSC says.
KHSC says the move points to a larger problem: that hospitals in Ontario can’t keep up with the demand in emergency care.
“Despite our recruitment efforts, we continue to be significantly short-staffed and our doctors and nurses are stretched thin,” says Dr. David Messenger, head of emergency medicine at KHSC.
Messenger said that over the last six months, in particular, Kingston General Hopsital’s emergency department has been overloaded.
It’s a sign of a stretched medical system following years of pressure from the pandemic, according to Dr. David Pichora, KHSC’s president and CEO.
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“No single organization will be able to solve these systemic problems on their own,” he said.
Kingston General Hospital’s emergency department is also southeastern Ontario’s main referral centre for major medical issues, which adds to the already increased load seen at the department.
Amid the increased demand, KHSC is asking those seeking medical care at the hospital to take note of the services the different departments offer.
Kingston General Hospital’s emergency department is meant to address “critical or life-threatening conditions that need immediate attention,” like heavy bleeding, serious shortness of breath, a broken major bone, severe and sudden pain or a change in the ability to move, speak or think.
The urgent care centre is meant for “new medical conditions and injuries that can’t wait to be treated” such as cuts needing stitches, wounds or burns, sprains or suspected minor broken bones, and symptoms of infection.
KHSC says many people who attend the urgent care centre may be better served by a primary care physician.
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