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Winnipeg ER, urgent care wait times spike over holiday season

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Patients at emergency departments and urgent care centres around Winnipeg are experiencing longer-than-usual wait times over the holiday season, Global's Marney Blunt reports.

Patients at emergency departments and urgent care centres around Winnipeg are experiencing longer-than-usual wait times over the holiday season.

On Monday, St. Boniface Hospital’s emergency department had a wait time of 7.5 hours, according to the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority’s (WRHA) website, while urgent care centres at Seven Oaks General Hospital and Victoria General Hospital had wait times of 5.5 hours.

The urgent care centre at Concordia Hospital, Grace Hospital’s emergency department and Health Sciences Centre Winnipeg’s adult emergency department each had five-hour wait times.

By 5 a.m. Tuesday, the wait time at St. Boniface’s emergency department had gone up to 11 hours, according to the website, however it has since dropped.

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“It is really frustrating. I mean, I’ve lived in this city my whole life and you see certain things plummeting and it’s kind of a concern,” says Winnipeg resident, Jenna Shawara.

“Especially because I have kids and you kind of worry about what is society going to look like when they’re older.”

A spokesperson for the WRHA says the holiday season has been busy, with higher-than-usual volumes of patients at emergency departments and urgent care centres as well as higher severity of illnesses and more admissions than normal.

Health officials also say the number of patients arriving via emergency medical services on Monday was higher than normal.

“The main driving force behind this increased traffic appears to be respiratory illness. This includes confirmed and unconfirmed cases of flu, as well as other respiratory illnesses,” a WRHA spokesperson told Global News in an emailed statement.

“(On Monday), for example, at many hospitals in Winnipeg, there were a large number of patients who presented with fever/cough-congestion/general weakness/shortness of breath. Many of these cases feature flu-like symptoms, but it is only considered a confirmed case of influenza once test results confirm as much.”

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The WRHA says these types of cases are not unusual for this time of year, as respiratory illness tends to spike in the winter months.

“The hospitals have surge protocols and over-capacity protocols in place to adjust to the increased traffic, and we monitor the situation daily,” the WRHA spokesperson wrote.

“If this monitoring suggests we need to take additional actions, we can and will. Patients are encouraged to visit their primary care provider if they feel an illness coming on, but we would also encourage the public to seek assistance at an urgent care or emergency department if they feel their situation is an urgent concern.”