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Flu outbreak has Peterborough’s hospital and paramedics on the run

Click to play video: 'Off-load delays at PRHC increasing' Off-load delays at PRHC increasing
An influenza outbreak is causing patient backlogs and off-load delays for Peterborough's hospital and paramedics – Jan 5, 2018

An influx of flu patients is creating a backlog for Peterborough’s hospital and paramedics.

A community-wide influenza outbreak was declared on Thursday. It comes as the staff at Peterborough Regional Health Centre is already dealing with an influx of patients to the emergency department. Patient visits could top 90,000 by the end of this March, compared with 82,000 in the 12-months end March 31, 2017.

READ MORE: Flu season hit early; will hit even harder in 2018

“The flu-like symptoms that we are seeing are significantly higher than we have seen (before) the holidays,” said Stella Johnson, PRHC’s emergency department manager.

“What we’re really noticing is that patients that are coming in are significantly sick and are requiring isolation.”

The addition of 24 more beds a few months ago hasn’t helped much since patient volumes remain above 100 per cent of bed capacity.

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READ MORE: Province funding additional beds for PRHC and area hospitals

That volume is putting extra strain on paramedic services.

“We finding that this is probably the worst case scenario in the last five years,” said Chris Barry, deputy chief of Peterborough Paramedics.

Barry said there is no threat to potential patients but added the additional emergency department visitors is creating significant patient off-load delays for paramedics.

“When someone phones 911, an ambulance is dispatched. But what we’re finding is that when we’re getting those patients to the hospital, our paramedics are sitting with those patients for hours until we can find a bed,” Barry said. “And at that time more calls are waiting.”

Typically there are nine ambulances on the road during a 24-hour shift, Barry said. To meet current demand one  to two more ambulances a day have been added to the fleet.

READ MORE: Kingston heart attack survivor thanks paramedics who saved him

Johnson offers advice to those considering a visit to the emergency department.

“If you feel you do require emergency level care, please come in and we will see you in order of your severity and be able to provide appropriate care,” Johnson said.

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“Patients really can do a lot to protect themselves and their family members by getting the flu shot. And that flu shot really is that first and vital defence against being able to come down with the flu and protecting our community.”

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