By Dr. John Simpson
With pandemic restrictions easing, people are getting back to their regular lives and engaging in activity and adventure once again. In some cases, people are only now following up to get medical help for care they may have deferred during the pandemic.
We are seeing both scenarios in our Emergency Departments in Bracebridge and Huntsville where volumes are on the rise and wait times are getting longer. In May, Emergency Department visits across our two sites rose 17% year over year. And in June, there were more than 4,100 visits to the two departments. COVID-19 has had a profound impact on health human resources across the health care system. In addition to the toll that the pandemic has taken on health care workers dealing with the pressures of responding to COVID-19, our hospitals are also experiencing unprecedented hospital use and unrelenting high occupancy. For us, this is not just another summer in Muskoka. The hospitals are still in the midst of the pandemic, working in a fragile state with strained staffing.
We know that sometimes accidents happen and that’s why the Emergency Department is a 24/7 operation. We also know that how people access care has changed dramatically since the pandemic, and more than ever, different mental wellness services have come on line and virtual care is providing greater options.
We want to make sure people are informed about different options for care in Muskoka, so they can support their local hospital by knowing when it’s appropriate to go to the Emergency Department and when to access primary care or other community-based supports. It’s about knowing what is available for non-emergencies and choosing the right care in the right place at the right time by the right provider. This helps to ensure that safe and high-quality emergency care is accessible close to home and the cottage for people when they need it most.
Dr. Simpson’s five tips for the summer:
- Make safety a priority by avoiding risky behaviour that can lead to illness or injury, and make a thoughtful plan to avoid an unnecessary trip to the Emergency Department.
- Consider what is available for care as you plan outings. Ask yourself… Are my prescriptions in order? Are my immunizations up to date? Does my current health support that trip to the cottage I was planning to take?
- If you are feeling unwell, your first call should be to your primary care provider for their advice or ability to see you, potentially virtually or even by phone.
- Consider making an appointment at the COVID-19 Clinical Assessment Centre in Bracebridge for any upper-respiratory issue. Any sniffles, cough, COVID-19 or influenza symptoms? You can be seen by a doctor quickly at this clinic – without a trip to the Emergency Department.
- Visit www.mahc.ca/wheretogetcareMuskoka/ to educate yourself about the different options for care locally. Information is provided for people who have a local doctor and provides virtual care options to see a physician for those who do not. Resources are provided for mental health and additions. There is even information about when you should go to the Emergency Department and when a visit to your primary care provider is more appropriate.
These tips will help you help us conserve the Emergency Departments for real emergencies and preserve reasonable wait times this summer. We appreciate your support! Be safe and well!
Dr. John Simpson is the Director & Chief of Emergency Medicine at Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare.
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