Avoiding non-emergency hospital visits during the holidays, and where to go for estimated Emergency Department wait times

December 19th, 2014

To view our website for an estimated wait time in our Emergency Department to see a physician (non-urgent cases), as well as alternatives to the Emergency Department for non-urgent concerns, click here. NOTE: If you are in need of serious medical attention, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency department.

To watch a short video about our Emergency Department wait times website click here

With family doctor offices and urgent care centres closing or reducing hours over the holidays, emergency departments may be the only option for people seeking medical attention between Christmas and the New Year. This can lead to longer than usual waits times for healthier patients or those who don’t require immediate emergency care.

St. Mary’s General Hospital advises that by being prepared, people may avoid an emergency visit completely or greatly improve their experience if they do need emergency care over the holidays.

Here are some tips to help avoid an emergency department visit:

  • Make sure everyone in your family has enough medications (both prescription and non-prescription) to get through the holidays
  • Make  sure all medical equipment (such as inhalers, respirators, glucometer and diabetic supplies) is in good working order
  • Ask your doctor’s office about its holiday hours and what back-up coverage it offers or recommends when it is closed
  • Find out where and when non-urgent medical care is being offered at local clinics
  • Know where the nearest 24-hour pharmacy is located

Not all visits will be avoidable, and an influx of patients could lead to longer than usual wait times for non-urgent care. Our staff and physicians will do their best to see patients as quickly as possible, but the departments could be very busy.  As always, patients will be seen by a doctor based on the severity of their illness.

If an emergency visit is necessary remember to:

  • Bring your OHIP card or other medical insurance information
  • Bring a list or supply of your current medications
  • Bring only one person to support you – visitor restrictions will be enforced
  • If you are bringing a child to the department, don’t forget diapers, blankets and other comfort items
  • If you have a new or worse cough or shortness of breath put on a mask and perform hand hygiene when you arrive in the department. If you are also feeling feverish, tell the receptionist or nurse right away.




Anne Kelly Communications Specialist
519-749-6578 ext. 1501
226-339-1903 (mobile)