Kingston, ON – Commencing Saturday, August 26th, Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC) says it will implement revised operating hours for its Urgent Care Centre (UCC) located at the Hotel Dieu Hospital site during weekends. This strategic step arises from a scarcity of Emergency Medicine physicians.
KHSC says the decision to reduce hours has been made to ensure “adequate staffing” at its Kingston General Hospital (KGH) Emergency Department site.
Moving forward, KHSC’s UCC will operate Saturdays and Sundays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Weekday operating hours are not being affected and will continue to be 8 a.m. to 8 p.m, Monday to Friday.
UCC caps the daily number of patients that can be seen, which means it may also close registration earlier than the posted closing time. The cap is determined daily, based on the number of patients, physician and nurse staffing levels, wait times, and the complexity of patients receiving 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 the Department of Emergency Medicine. “We need to take this action to preserve access to safe, timely and high-quality emergency care for patients with serious illnesses and injuries from across our region.”
UCC first began capping the number of patients that could be seen each day last July. According to KHSC, this measure would enable health-care teams to spend the appropriate amount of time with each patient and to provide safe and effective care. At the time, UCC announced its urgent care centres would close earlier than 8:00pm on several says.
Further staffing shortages has led to an inability to fill all the shifts required to maintain current operating hours at the UCC, while also filling all shifts necessary to provide care for the high volume of patients at the ED. The Emergency Department serves as southeastern Ontario’s major referral centre for trauma, stroke, cardiology, subspecialized surgery, and mental health and addiction care.
“For the last several years our entire health-care system has been under tremendous pressure as all hospitals across the country experience similar issues,” says Dr. David Pichora, KHSC’s president and CEO. “No single organization will be able to solve these systemic problems on their own and we continue to work with our peer hospitals, government and partners to find sustainable solutions.”
“In the meantime, we recognize this is unwelcome news for our community, but rest assured, our priority is to focus our resources to provide emergency medical care in our ED which is a critical resource for the entire southeast.”
The ED at the KGH site will remain open and available 24/7 to provide care for patients with serious illnesses and injuries. The UCC meanwhile, continues to be available seven days per week to serve patients with urgent health concerns.
“We want to remind the community that the UCC serves patients that have new medical conditions and injuries that can’t wait to be treated in another setting such as a primary care or family doctor’s clinic, walk-in or virtual care clinic, or a community pharmacy,” says Dr. Messenger. “Examples of urgent conditions include cuts needing stitches, wounds or burns, sprains or suspected minor broken bones, and symptoms of infection – such as pain, fever, vomiting, rash – in otherwise healthy people. The UCC is not an appropriate place to seek care for chronic and ongoing health issues or mental health concerns.”
In fact, many visitors to the UCC arrive with conditions that are better treated by family doctors or by community pharmacists, who may renew existing prescriptions and prescribe medication for 13 common concerns such as non-reoccurring urinary tract infections, tick bites, muscles strains and basic skin irritations and infections.
For critical or life-threatening conditions that need immediate attention, patients should not hesitate to go to the nearest emergency department or call 9-1-1. Medical emergencies include heavy bleeding, serious shortness of breath, a broken major bone, severe and sudden pain or change in ability to move, speak or think.
Visit www.rightplacerightcare.ca to learn more about the alternate care options available in our communities.