Staffing and capacity pressures continue at West Haldimand General Hospital

(Wednesday, November 9, 2022) – Like many hospitals across Canada, West Haldimand General (WHGH) continues to face immense pressures related to staffing shortages and 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, WHGH is seeing an unusually high seasonal surge in viral illnesses in the emergency department and are concerned about hospital capacity now and in the coming months. WHGH has frequently reached 100% occupancy over the past year and in recent months.

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 long wait-times.

Patients who seek care at the emergency department will be triaged and prioritized based on the severity of their conditions.

“West Haldimand General Hospital is committed to meeting the needs of those we serve,” said AnneMarie VanSickle, Director of the Emergency Department. “Priority will always be given to trauma and critical care patients at the emergency department first.  Sometimes, this causes frustration for those waiting to get treatment, when they see others receive care before them. WHGH is also experiencing a trend of people from other areas accessing the emergency department believing they will not have to wait as long; however, all hospitals are facing similar staffing challenges. Other challenges we are facing is when a patient requires a transfer to another hospital for diagnostics or for a higher level of care, a nurse must accompany the patient. This decreases the number of nurses available in the department to provide care. Our team is working tirelessly to provide the best care we can to the community, and sincerely appreciate your understanding at this challenging time.”

About the triage process:

The WHGH Emergency Department triage patients based on physical and mental need for care.

All Canadian health care facilities use the Canadian Triage and Acuity Scale (CTAS) tool to determine the seriousness of a person’s illness or injury, and care for them appropriately, with the most critical being cared for first.

When patients arrive at the emergency department, a triage nurse categorizes their care as one of the following:

  • Level 1: Severe. These are conditions that are threats to life or limb. For example: cardiac arrest and major trauma.
  • Level 2: Emergent. These are conditions that are a potential threat to life, limb or function. For example: chest pains.
  • Level 3: Urgent. These are serious conditions that require emergency intervention. For example: asthma and frostbite.
  • Level 4: Semi-Urgent. These are conditions that relate to patient distress or potential complications that would benefit from intervention. For example: mild pains, such as an earache.
  • Level 5: Non-urgent. These are conditions that are non-urgent or that may be part of a chronic problem. For example: skin infections, back pain or ankle injuries.

Our staff and physicians are working extremely hard to manage the health and safety of patients with limited resources, so please be kind and understanding.

Alternate options for less urgent needs:

Please know that other options are available for people not experiencing a medical emergency. You can visit your family doctor for health concerns that can wait a day or more; contact Health Connect Ontario to speak with a registered nurse 24/7 via phone or web chat; or visit an urgent care centre for health concerns that aren’t life-threatening but can’t wait for a doctor’s appointment.

Additionally, people who need health care advice or are unsure about their medical issues can contact Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000 to speak with a Registered Nurse. Patients can also visit a local pharmacist if they need a prescription refill.

WHGH remains committed to helping everyone who needs medical care in the communities we serve. Actively recruiting and retaining physicians and nurses is one of our top priorities, in addition to improving patient experience, addressing patient flow and increasing access to services