Tips for Avoiding Non-Essential Trips to the Emergency Department During the Holidays

December 11th, 2015

December 11, 2015 (Kitchener) – With family doctors’ offices and walk-in clinics closing or reducing hours over the holidays, many people think emergency departments are the only option for people seeking non-urgent 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.

Last year during the holiday, patient visits to the emergency department at St. Mary’s and Grand River Hospitals were approximately 12 to 15 per cent higher than regular days. 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 a non-essential 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 the office is closed.
  • Find out locations and hours for local walk-in clinics. Contact information for clinics is available at and
  • Know where the nearest 24-hour pharmacy is located (i.e. Shopper’s Drug Mart – 50 Weber St. N., Waterloo).
  • Practice good hand hygiene as hand hygiene is the single, most effective method of preventing transmission of infection.

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.
  • If you are coming to the department with a child, bring diapers, blankets and other comfort items.
  • 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.
  • If you need to visit, try to bring only essential visitors with you, as the ED is very busy over the holiday period.



For more information, please contact:

Anne Kelly                                                                         Mark Karjaluoto                              Interim Manager of Communications                                Director of Communications
519-749-6578, ext. 1501                                                   519-749-4300, ext. 2788
226-339-1903 (mobile)                                                      519-244-3088 (pager)                                                      

Walk-in Clinics/Hours, December 21, 2015 – January 3, 2016
Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge
*Hours can change without notice

Pharmacies/Hours, December 25-26, 2015 – January 1, 2016
Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge
*Hours can change without notice