A particularly nasty version of influenza was the main reason Petrolia’s emergency department saw 25 per cent more patients than expected.
Sue Rogers Business director of Medicine and Rural Health at Bluewater Health says Charlotte Eleanor Engelhart Hospital had treated almost 19,000 patients by the end of January and expects that by the end of March it will have treated 5,400 more people than expected in the emergency department.
Rogers tells The Independent the big driver behind the increased number of visits was the flu. “I honestly think the community has had a difficult winter with respiratory and gastronal intestinal symptoms this year,” she says.
Rogers says this year’s flu vaccine only protected about 40 per cent of the people who received it and people with chronic health problems were deeply affected by the prevalent strain of flu which was making the rounds.
The local nursing homes have had several outbreaks of influenza closing either part or all of the homes to visitors. Lambton Public Health says there have been seven confirmed deaths because of the flu.
In fact, Rogers says CEE’s emergency department had its busiest day ever over the Christmas holidays. On Dec. 27, 99 people were treated in Petrolia stretching resources already thin because of the Christmas holiday even thinner.
At the time, a local doctor told The Independent patients were lining the halls – with buckets in hand – while they waited.
Petrolia wasn’t the only ER with huge wait times that day – Sarnia also saw 200 patients that day.
Rogers says the hospital would like to avoid a repeat of the Christmas event and is working now on a plan to provide more consistent staffing to help reduce wait times.
“How do we make the whole holiday period for both our departments look different.,” she says. “We’ve started the preliminary work now – our target will be to have a plan for the fall so everyone is ready for the holiday period.”