Ontario ERs 'overwhelmed' as flu hits harder than usual
Published Monday, December 29, 2014 6:37PM EST
Last Updated Monday, December 29, 2014 8:25PM EST
Emergency rooms in Ontario are filling up fast with people reporting flu-like systems.
At one Toronto-area hospital, ER visits are 40-per-cent higher than normal.
Dr. Benjamin Fuller, chief of Emergency and Critical Care at Lakeridge Health, says the influenza virus has “overwhelmed” the hospital.
“This year, it’s been horrendous,” he says.
Lakeridge Health has emergency rooms in Bowmanville, Oshawa and Port Perry. About one-third of its 1,000 daily patients have flu-like symptoms, says Fuller.
The hospital has opened 46 extra beds and increased staffing, but many staff are already working 14 to 16 hour days to accommodate the illness because many are off work sick, he says.
“I know the nurses are exhausted,” says Fuller. “It is continuous -- 24 hours a day.”
Dr. Doug Sider of Public Health Ontario, says that ERs are busy with the flu at many of the province’s hospitals.
That’s due to a mismatch between the type of virus that was targeted in this year’s flu vaccines and the type that is spreading now, he says.
It takes months to make and distribute influenza vaccines, and the virus can mutate in the interim. This year’s flu vaccine is thought to be only 50 to 60 per cent effective.
What’s worse, says Sider, is that this year’s strain is Influenza A (H3N2), which can cause, “more serious illness, more hospitalizations and more complications.”
The potential good news is that flu season could be over quicker than usual.
Lisa Shiozaki, Chief Nursing Executive at Lakeridge Health, says that the flu season appears to be peaking early. The peak is not usually until January, she says.