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Kingston General Hospital 'bursting at the seams' with COVID-19 and respiratory illness patients

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The Kingston General Hospital says a surge of emergency department inpatients, including a day that had a near record 580 admissions, has the hospital struggling to keep up as the respiratory virus season peaks across the province.

A thread of social media posts by the Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC), which operates the general hospital, said they are 'bursting at the seams' with the increase in ER admissions and are beginning to open 'non-traditional spaces' to deal with the influx.

"We continue to see patients with COVID-19 as infection rates hold steady across our region. We’re averaging about 15-20 COVID inpatients per-day, some in the ICU. Meanwhile, we’ve now hit peak RSV season and flu cases are beginning to rise in the area," KHSC said on X.

"Meanwhile, our Emergency Department (ED) is also seeing high volumes of patients. Despite our best efforts, some patients are seeing longer wait times in the ED for less urgent issues. We know it is frustrating, but we have to treat the sickest people first."

An emailed statement by KHSC says wait times for an initial assessment remain around average at 3.1 hours, but recognize that patients with less urgent conditions and needs are experiencing longer wait times.

Jason Hann, the vice president of patient care and the chief nurse for KHSC told CTV Morning Live on Wednesday that they are putting 'surge plans' in place.

"We're anticipating for about a 120 per cent occupancy rate across the Kingston Health Science Centre and that's for both our pediatric and our adult population," Hann said.

A large gym at the General Hospital is being prepared as an impatient unit in case the hospital would need to transfer people from the emergency department during the holidays.

The centre said this is occurring amid a worldwide shortage of healthcare workers and the hospital is often short-staffed. They are working to recruit more staff and are making progress, but qualified individuals are "hard to find."

"A number of the patients we are admitting each day are children. We are adjusting many of our inpatient areas to make more room for the rising numbers of pediatric patients who are coming to us for help – both from our region, and from other areas in the province," KHSC's statement on X said.

The centre is reminding people in the community to get vaccinated, wear a mask and stay home if you don't feel well.

"We all hate to miss those special holiday events when we’re under the weather, but staying home in your PJ’s isn’t nearly as bad as sharing a virus with a vulnerable family member or friend," the centre said.

Meanwhile, health officials across the province are warning that an increase in COVID-19 and respiratory infections are causing higher than average wait times across the country.

The Monfort Hospital in the east-end of Ottawa reported wait times of up to 20 hours for a full assessment by a physician (it does not state the wait for an initial assessment).

The Ottawa Hospital and the Queensway-Carleton Hospital also said they are experiencing higher than average patient volumes.

The Kingston General Hospital does not list current wait times online. The latest statistics by Health Quality Ontario, which monitored wait times from across the province in October, found that patients waited an average of 3.1 hours to get an initial assessment by a physician. 

Patients are triaged upon arrival and then given an initial visit with a doctor before receiving a full assessment.

The provincial average wait time for an initial assessment was 2.1 hours in October. 

With files from CTV Morning Live Ottawa

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