Kitchener hospitals offer holiday health tips to local residents

Grand River Hospital and St. Mary’s General Hospital have released a list of tips that may help Waterloo residents avoid a dreaded trip to the emergency room over the holidays.

“We just want people to be prepared and we like to put (the tips) out ahead of time before the holidays because we know during the holidays we typically see increased volumes,” said Dr. Nick Cornell, medical director of St. Mary’s emergency department.

Cornell works in the emergency department at both hospitals, and over the past few years, he says the volume of visitors has increased by as much as 15 per cent.

Some of the hospitals’ holiday tips include things like positive hand hygiene, making sure you stock up on medications — both prescription and non-prescription — and making certain all medical equipment is in good working order.

“A lot of stuff that you can foresee happening over the holidays, get that stuff dealt with ahead of time,” Cornell said.

“You can make sure you have over-the-counter medications on hand such as your Tylenol, Advil, Benadryl because the other thing that closes, sometimes early, is those pharmacies so if you have those on hand you can save yourself a trip,” he explained.

The holiday season is a busy time of year with many visitors, and this can often mean a slight increase in the focus on small children.

Grand River and St. Mary’s recommend that you keep items such as medication, alcohol and tobacco products out of reach of little ones.

Part of the reason the emergency department sees an increase in visitors is that family doctors and walk-in clinics may be keeping different hours during the festive season.

Cornell says it is a good idea to be aware of the hours your doctor or local walk-in clinic may be keeping during that time.

“Just knowing these options ahead of time so you are not in a panic at the last minute,” he said.

Cornell said patients who are uncertain about whether they need assistance can contact Telehealth for advice, but the emergency department is always open as well.

People can look at estimated wait times on the hospital’s websites, where they can also find hours and locations for local walk-in clinics.

“We always triage based on severity so if you come to the (emergency) department and you are waiting a long time, in some incidences, we have other sick people to see ahead of you,” he explained.

“I never want anyone to avoid coming because they are worried about a six-hour wait because if they are sick, we will definitely be seeing them much sooner than that.”

Cornell says people should be prepared to wait if they are forced to visit the emergency department during the holiday season.

“There are people who, unfortunately, need more of the acute services ahead of you,” he explained.

“This is especially important with young ones. Remember to bring enough formula if they are bottle-fed, extra diapers and other items.”

He said the hospitals would be disappointed if you were forced to leave and had not been examined.

Other items you should bring include your OHIP card and a list and/or supply of current medications.

One more tip from the hospitals reads: “If you have a new or worse cough or shortness of breath, put on a mask and use hand sanitizer when you arrive in the department. If you are feeling feverish, tell the receptionist or nurse right away.”

Grand River and St. Mary’s also advise emergency room patients not to bring a whole crew of people along for a hospital visit, only those who are essential.

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