Staffing and capacity pressures continue at Norfolk General Hospital

(Wednesday, November 9, 2022) – Like many hospitals across Canada, Norfolk General Hospital (NGH) continues to face immense pressures related to staffing shortages and capacity pressures. We continue to look at all options to prioritize the delivery of safe and quality care for patients while creating a safe and quality work environment for our staff and physicians.

Currently, NGH is seeing an unusually high seasonal surge in viral illnesses in the emergency department and are concerned about hospital capacity now and in the coming months. NGH has frequently reached 100% occupancy over the past year and in recent months.

These challenges are being felt at hospitals across the province, and that is why we ask everyone to help us preserve care for those who need it most and only come to the emergency department if your health concern is critical. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please call 911 or proceed to your local Emergency Department.

Priority will always be given to trauma and critical care patients. Patients with non-urgent medical issues may experience long wait-times.

Patients who seek care at the emergency department will be triaged and prioritized based on the severity of their conditions.

“Like many emergency departments across the province, Norfolk General Hospital is experiencing the strains of our healthcare system, said Dr. Christine Tran, Chief of the Emergency Department. “With the unusual spike in respiratory illnesses combined with the pressures of our healthcare system, we are experiencing longer wait times than usual. We encourage everyone to be proactive this winter season by getting their flu and COVID-19 shots and to consider alternate options for non-emergent issues. Our team is working tirelessly to provide the best care we can to the community, and sincerely appreciate your understanding at this challenging time.”

About the triage process:

The NGH Emergency Department triage patients based on physical and mental need for care.

All Canadian health care facilities use the Canadian Triage and Acuity Scale (CTAS) tool to determine the seriousness of a person’s illness or injury, and care for them appropriately, with the most critical being cared for first.

When patients arrive at the emergency department, a triage nurse categorizes their care as one of the following:

  • Level 1: Severe. These are conditions that are threats to life or limb. For example: cardiac arrest and major trauma.
  • Level 2: Emergent. These are conditions that are a potential threat to life, limb or function. For example: chest pains.
  • Level 3: Urgent. These are serious conditions that require emergency intervention. For example: asthma and frostbite.
  • Level 4: Semi-Urgent. These are conditions that relate to patient distress or potential complications that would benefit from intervention. For example: mild pains, such as an earache.
  • Level 5: Non-urgent. These are conditions that are non-urgent or that may be part of a chronic problem. For example: skin infections, back pain or ankle injuries.

Our staff and physicians are working extremely hard to manage the health and safety of patients with limited resources, so please be kind and understanding.

“It is a challenging time right now in emergency departments across the province, and Haldimand-Norfolk is no different,” said Cory Fraser, Director of the Emergency, ICU, and Respiratory Units. “Our staff are exhausted and heading into the flu season, which is going to be quite challenging as we have already seen an uptick in respiratory presentations. We encourage everyone to know their healthcare options and get the flu shot.”

Alternate options for less urgent needs:

Please know that other options are available for people not experiencing a medical emergency. You can visit your family doctor for health concerns that can wait a day or more; contact Health Connect Ontario to speak with a registered nurse 24/7 via phone or web chat; or visit an urgent care centre for health concerns that aren’t life-threatening but can’t wait for a doctor’s appointment.

Additionally, people who need health care advice or are unsure about their medical issues can contact Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000 to speak with a Registered Nurse. Patients can also visit a local pharmacist if they need a prescription refill.

NGH remains committed to helping everyone who needs medical care in the communities we serve. Actively recruiting and retaining physicians and nurses is one of our top priorities, in addition to improving patient experience, addressing patient flow and increasing access to services.