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Regional hospitals warn of longer than expected wait times

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Hospitals in Simcoe County warn of higher than usual patient wait times amidst a surge in demand for care, an issue shared at emergency rooms across the province.

Soldiers' Memorial Hospital tweeted Monday evening that it was "seeing an increased number of patients presenting to the emergency department higher levels of acuity." The post noted there were "significant numbers in the waiting room."

The hospital asked the public to consider alternative options for anything non-urgent but stressed the emergency room remains open.

Dr. Barry Nathanson, an Internal Medicine Critical Care Specialist at Southlake Regional Health Centre, said the situation isn't surprising.

"The pandemic and all of the troubles associated with the pandemic are adding enormous pressures to a system that was stretched to capacity, to begin with."

Combined with ongoing staffing shortages, the problem is forcing some emergency departments to close their doors, like South Bruce Grey Health Centre's Chesley Hospital, which is closed until Dec. 2.

Officials with Stevenson Memorial Hospital and Georgian Bay General Hospital say recent wait times are up to five hours or longer.

"We are continuing to see an increase in demand for hospital services, and that results in increased wait times for individuals, unfortunately," said Georgian Bay General Hospital CEO Matthew Lawson.

On Monday, Lawson said the hospital saw 140 patients through its emergency department, which is 15 to 20 per cent higher than usual.

With flu season looming and COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses on the rise, some healthcare experts warn the cracks could show even more.

"We need to be prepared for the fact that our near short-term future in Ontario health care has the potential to become quite strained," noted Dr. Nathanson.

Residents are urged to reconsider masking indoors and getting the flu shot and COVID-19 vaccines.

"These are things that can be done urgently and readily to protect our precious health services system," Dr. Nathanson concluded.

Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre in Barrie noted it had been "consistently experiencing increasing patient volumes, which is not unusual for this time of year."

It stated wait times could be longer than expected and reminded the public that it also manages the COVID Cold and Flu Care Clinic at 29 Sperling Drive, where people can book an appointment to seek care.

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