Cornwall Community Hospital is warning of longer than usual Emergency Department wait times amid a province-wide surge in patient volumes, staffing shortages and lack of available beds.
July 8, 2022 – The months of May and June saw the highest number of visits to the Cornwall Community Hospital’s (CCH) Emergency Department in 5 years, all while the hospital simultaneously deals with a shortage of available healthcare staff and emergency physicians, and a lack of available beds due to rising numbers of long-stay Alternate Level of Care (ALC) patients.
The result is that patients in the Emergency Department are waiting longer to be assessed and admitted, and staff are enduring increased abuse from frustrated patients and families.
This is not unique to Cornwall as the Ontario Hospital Association is reporting that hospitals throughout the province are experiencing high ALC numbers and worsening staffing pressures, causing some of the highest provincial wait and ambulance offload times in more than 10 years.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on health human resources. Many healthcare workers moved to other areas of the healthcare system or left the occupation, and many smaller communities such as Cornwall face severe physician shortages.
Locally these pressures have been exacerbated by the recent closure of the McConnell Medical Clinic, leaving many people feeling like they have no choice but to visit the Emergency Department.
“We recognize that Emergency Department wait times are long, however we expect that our hard-working staff and physicians are treated with respect,” urges Jeanette Despatie, CCH President and Chief Executive Officer, adding that “the hospital is doing everything we can and using innovative ways to minimize the impact that these pressures are having on our healthcare system, and to ensure that our patients can receive the exceptional care they’ve come to know from our hospital.”
CCH would like to remind the community that unlike a walk-in clinic, when patients report to the Emergency Department, staff use a method called triage to determine who needs to be seen first.
“What this means is that patients are called based on the severity of symptoms rather than the order they checked in. We understand this can feel frustrating for those who have waited a long time for care. However, it is standard practice in hospitals because it ensures that we meet the needs of those requiring life-saving and urgent procedures. This is also why Emergency Department wait times are always fluctuating,” explains Despatie.
CCH assures the community that its Emergency Department team is doing everything possible to avoid reducing operating hours or closing its doors – like some Emergency Departments in Ontario have needed to do – and that anyone who comes to the Emergency Department will be seen by a physician according to the urgency of their symptoms. “But be prepared to wait and please be kind with staff,” adds Despatie.
CCH would also like to remind the community that although it has recently eased some pandemic restrictions, masks are still required at all times in the hospital, even while visiting with loved ones at the bedside. This is because the hospital is unique from other community settings in that it provides care to vulnerable patients, and many hospital rooms and waiting areas are shared spaces with others who are ill or recovering.
“COVID remains in our community and as numbers begin to once again rise, we must be cautious in order to avoid another lockdown in visitation,” says Despatie.