Know Your Care Options website can help relieve stress on local hospitals

By Justine Fraser

With respiratory virus season just starting, local hospitals are trying to divert patients to other resources.

Waterloo Wellington hospitals and Ontario Health Teams teamed up recently to create a ‘Know Your Care Options’ website that they hope will help decrease the number of people coming to the hospital for the wrong reasons.

Hospitals in the Waterloo Region are still seeing high wait times in emergency departments. Times can range from two to eight hours depending on patient needs.

With over 65,000 people in Waterloo and Wellington regions without a family doctor, more and more people are going to a hospital for medical care that they could be getting from somewhere else.

Waterloo and Wellington region hospitals as well as Ontario Health Teams – KW4, Cambridge North Dumfries, and Guelph Wellington – are hoping people will use the new website as a guide to help them know where to go to get the right care instead of heading out to a hospital.

The ‘Know Your Care Options’ website contains a list of local resources such as walk-in clinics, urgent care centres, pharmacies, and other options that people can go to other then the emergency room.

Joint Medical Director of Emergency Care at Grand River and St. Mary’s General Hospitals, Dr. Bill Kalirai, said about 20 per cent of people accessing emergency rooms in Waterloo Region don’t currently have a family doctor.

“We wanted to give people across the Waterloo Wellington region other alternatives and make sure people are aware they have other options to access other than the emergency room,” said Kalirai.

“Hospitals usually see high volumes of patients in a seasonal pattern and the holidays tend to have an increase in cold and flu. We end up having more patients in the emergency room at that time.”

Kalirai added that they are seeing a multitude of respiratory viruses like the flu, COVID, and RSV  currently but haven’t seen a big spike compared to this time last year.

About two per cent of all patients coming to regional hospitals are coming for a respiratory illness, which Kalirai said is normal for December.

“It’s a seasonal flux and the flu does arrive and when it does, it tends to cause more volume in the emergency room for sure,” said Kalirai. “Sicker patients are always seen first. So, if you’re coming to the emergency room with something that is non-urgent, bring something to do.”

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