Options for accessing health care during holiday season

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Dr. Somaiah Ahmed, chief and medical director of the emergency department at the Brant Community Healthcare System (Brantford General Hospital and Willett Hospital, Paris) has an important message for everyone this holiday season.

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“If you are not feeling well, and your condition is not improving at home, please do not delay in seeking the most appropriate care. Do not allow fear of long waits to prevent you from accessing care.”

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Ahmed said unfortunately, emergency department and urgent care centre physicians and staff often see the disadvantage when people wait too long before finally seeking care. “Health services can be very busy during Christmas and New Year’s so we understand why people can be hesitant. However, sometimes we let our guard down. So, I repeat, if your condition is not improving at home, please do not delay in getting the most appropriate care,” she said.

When deciding on the most appropriate care there are many choices. Dr. Scott Elliott, a family physician, said, “If you need medical care over the holiday period you should first contact your family physician or primary care nurse practitioner. They know and understand your health history. Check to determine if they have special holiday hours and after-hour clinics. As well numerous walk-in clinics are available. Sometimes patients can remain at home and self-manage minor cuts, scrapes, and aches and pains.”

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Pharmacies often provide relief for minor symptoms such as coughs and colds, nausea, diarrhea, and heartburn. Be sure to renew ongoing prescriptions.

It is important to note that during the Christmas and New Year’s period both the emergency department at the Brantford General Hospital and the Willett Hospital urgent care centre may be treating an increased number of patients which increases wait times, so making the proper decision before you go is important.

“The Willett urgent care centre provides expert care for non-emergent conditions,” Ahmed said. “If you have symptoms of a fever, flu, sore throat, ear infections, muscle injuries, and suspected minor bone fractures, or minor allergic reactions, the Willett urgent care centre is a very good choice.”

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“The Willett urgent care centre is equipped to provide same-day X-rays, bloodwork, and other diagnostic services.”

On the other hand, a specially trained team of emergency physicians and nurses staff the BGH emergency department. They follow guidelines of the Ontario Ministry of Health to ensure the sickest patients are always treated first.

Ahmed outlined when patients should consider going to the emergency department. “If you have severe chest pain, are unable to breathe, have stroke symptoms, choking, or uncontrolled bleeding come right away to the emergency department.”

Staffing at the emergency department and urgent care centre is unchanged during the holidays however the urgent care will have different hours for specific holiday days. Shortages may occur when staff become sick.

Visit the BCHS website www.bchsys.com for more information to learn about caring for you and your family and making the best choice if you or your family need to access care.

Hospital Insider is written by Gary Chalk who assists with communications for the Brant Community Healthcare System.

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