Surge in patient volumes heightens strain on our Emergency Department and hospital capacity: Please consider your health care options

Monday, December 18, 2023

(SIMCOE) – Like many hospitals across Canada, Norfolk General Hospital (NGH) continues to face immense challenges related to 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 a surge of flu, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and COVID-19 illnesses being presented in the emergency department and we have frequently reached or exceeded 100% occupancy.

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 longer than usual wait-times. Patients who seek care at the emergency department will be triaged and prioritized based on the severity of their conditions.

“With the uptick of respiratory infections and staffing shortages province-wide, emergency departments are under immense pressure,” said Dr. Christine Tran, Chief of the Emergency Department. “If you have a non-urgent issue, we ask at this time, to consider your healthcare options before presenting to the emergency department. We strive to always provide the best care we can, and appreciate your understanding and patience during this challenging time.”

Differentiating between a common cold, COVID-19, or flu symptoms can be challenging. However, practicing caution by staying home if feeling unwell, wearing masks indoors, frequent handwashing, and keeping up with vaccinations for both children and adults is strongly advised to curb the spread.

Managing cold and flu symptoms at home with rest, hydration, and over-the-counter remedies can often bring relief. If seeking children’s cold and flu medicine becomes challenging, consult your local pharmacist for suitable alternatives.

NGH strongly encourages everyone, if eligible, to obtain the latest COVID-19 and flu shots, along with the RSV vaccine.

“Vaccines remain our most powerful tool in reducing the risk of severe illness from both the flu and COVID-19. As we navigate the challenges of this fall and winter, let’s demonstrate our commitment to one another by taking a simple yet vital step: get your flu shot from your local healthcare provider or visit one of the many accessible local pharmacies and speak with your health care provider about other vaccines that are important for you.” – Dr. Robin Martin-Godelie, Chief of Staff, Norfolk General Hospital

 We encourage everyone to know all of their health-care options:

In an effort to alleviate emergency department strain and ensure timely access to care, NGH suggests considering these alternative healthcare options for non-urgent medical needs: Here are some options to consider:

  1.  Consult Your Family Physician:For non-urgent medical issues that can wait 24 hours or more, consulting a family physician who understands your medical history is advisable.
  2.  Visit a Local Pharmacist:Pharmacists in Ontario are authorized to prescribe medication for 19 specific conditions. This expanded scope of practice allows individuals to seek treatment directly from their local pharmacist
  3.  Health811:Access registered nurses 24/7 via phone or web chat for medical advice and support. For more information, visit the Health811 website.
  4.  Delhi Community Health Centre (DCHC) Walk-in Clinic:Open without pre-booking on Thursday evenings and Saturdays, offering first-come, first-serve medical services.
  5.  Virtual Online Care:Virtual Urgent Care is like seeing a Nurse Practitioner or Doctor on the computer or your cell phone, and you can do it the same day or the next day. They can help adults and kids in Southwestern Ontario! Book your appointment at

If you need to visit an Emergency Department, please bring your health card and all your medications.

NGH is anticipating wait times over the holidays will be longer than usual. Our staff and physicians are working extremely hard to manage the health and safety of patients, so please be kind and understanding.

Stay up to date with your vaccinations:

The most effective means to reduce seasonal influenza and COVID-19 is by receiving the flu and COVID-19 vaccines. By getting vaccinated, you significantly reduce the risk of hospitalization from these illnesses.

To schedule your appointment with local pharmacies or primary care providers to receive your flu or COVID-19 shot, please click here  .NGH is grateful to everyone for their patience and understanding as we try to meet the needs of all patients.