The Kingston Health Sciences Centre is limiting the daily number of patients that will be seen at the Urgent Care Centre at the Hotel Dieu Hospital campus, as it deals with a staffing shortage.

Starting Wednesday, the Urgent Care Centre will provide care for up to 120 patients each day, and the clinic may close earlier than 8 p.m. several days per week.

"With ongoing physician and staff shortages and growing patient volumes through the pandemic, hospitals across the country including KHSC, have been forced to make difficult decisions," Chief of Staff, Dr. Michael Fitzpatrick said.

“We have exhausted all other options and recognize the inconvenience this will cause for some people in our community. We ask everyone to help us preserve care for those who need it most and only come to the UCC if your health concern is indeed urgent.” 

The Kingston Health Sciences Centre operates an Urgent Care Centre at Hotel Dieu Hospital, and an emergency department at the Kingston General Hospital.

"We're trying to balance the load between the two sites. Obviously, our ER at KGH cannot close, that's our regional trauma centre and we get a lot of critical care referrals there," Kingston Health Sciences Centre president and CEO Dr. David Pichora told CTV News Channel.

"But what we've been seeing in urgent care recently, again, reflects what you're seeing in the system with rising volumes. Sometimes it's related to sheer volume patients, but other times its complexity. We're seeing more and more patients come there who really should be at the ER because of the complexity in the extent of the illness."

The Urgent Care Centre provides care for cuts needing stitches, sprains, strains, deep bruises, mild to moderate asthma attacks, minor broken bones, insect bites and rashes. It's open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The Kingston Health Sciences Centre says the decision to limit the daily number of patients in the Urgent Care Clinic was made, "to ensure the urgent care team can continue to provide the highest-quality of care to each person who walks through the door."

Each day, staff will determine daily how many patients it can safely care for depending on the complexity of conditions needing to be addressed, the number of doctors and nurses available and the status of the Emergency Department at the Kingston General Hospital.

The Kingston Health Sciences Centre says recruiting is ongoing to fill "a number" of physician and nursing vacancies.

"It’s difficult to simply hire because there aren’t enough people to fill all the hospital vacancies in Ontario and it takes time to recruit and train specialists such as emergency and urgent care doctors and nurses," said Dr. Tim Chaplin, medical director of the Emergency Medicine Program.

The Kingston Health Sciences Centre is the latest hospital in eastern Ontario to reduce capacity in its emergency department or Urgent Care Centre.

The Glengarry Memorial Hospital in Alexandria, Ont. is closing its emergency departments overnights until Aug. 3. The emergency department at the Perth Hospital has been closed since July 2 due to a COVID-19 outbreak and staffing shortage. That emergency department is scheduled to reopen on July 24.