Winter surge affecting Bluewater Health

The hospital is full and emergency department wait times are longer than usual

(Lambton Shield File Photo)

Bluewater Health is still experiencing a winter surge resulting in extra beds and longer wait times at the emergency department.

Laurie Zimmer, vice president of operations with Bluewater Heath, said that hospitals expect a busy January, but this year has been exceptionally busy.

“We’re above 100% occupied,” said Zimmer.

Bluewater Health’s baseline bed count is around 299 beds and as of the morning of Thursday, January 25, there were 305 patients in beds, according to Zimmer.

“We’ve used all of the additional capacity of beds at both the Sarnia site and the Petrolia site,” said Zimmer.

Zimmer said wait times at the emergency department are longer than normal adding that the hospital encourages people to seek their primary care provider if possible.

“We’re working hard to ensure that our patients and families receive timely care as best as possible,” she said.

Two weeks ago, the hospital announced it was at capacity and put visitor restrictions in place citing an increase in seasonal illness.

The visitor restrictions have since been lifted but the hospital is still feeling the impact of seasonal illnesses.

Zimmer said Bluewater Health has experienced an influx of patients afflicted with acute flu symptoms.

“Across our province and across our [Local Health Integration Network], all the hospitals are experiencing a higher than normal flu-like season this year,” Zimmer said.

As of Tuesday, January 23, Lambton County has seen 51 confirmed cases of influenza and two deaths caused by the illness, according to Erin Courtney, health protection supervisor with Lambton Public Health.

Courtney said the county’s first case of influenza was reported in September and the second case came in December. The remaining cases have been confirmed since Christmas.

“It’s a spike but it’s not anything out of the ordinary,” said Courtney. “It is typical, after Christmas, to see a spike in influenza.”

Courtney said getting the flu shot now is still effective, but it takes two weeks to offer full protection.

Last flu season, 89 cases of influenza were confirmed in Lambton County while the 2015-2016 season saw 78 confirmed cases and 63 cases were confirmed in the 2014-2015 season, according to data from Ontario Public Health.

When tracking data, Ontario Public Health considers flu season September 1 until August 31 of the following year.

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