While Hawkesbury and District General Hospital recently experienced longer wait times at its emergency department, the situation was similar over the holiday season at the Glengarry Memorial Hospital in Alexandria.

“We’ve seen definitely a seasonal spike in our activity,” said Glengarry Memorial Hospital Chief Executive Officer Michael Cohen.

He said the emergency department normally sees 65 to 70 patients per day, but it increased to 90 to 100 patients during the holiday season.  Cohen said the average waiting time in Alexandria is usually three hours, but it ranged from four to five hours during the holiday period.  He said the increases corresponded with cold, flu, and gastro-intestinal virus season.

Cohen said the hospital was not short-staffed during the holidays and that it has a “surge plan” in place where additional staff are called in to assist if necessary.

He said that patients from Québec seeking faster treatment were not a factor in the increased emergency department activity.

“Our job is to make people feel better and we don’t care where they are from,” Cohen said.

As with all other hospitals, patients at the emergency department in Alexandria are triaged based on the severity of their condition.

Cohen said patients should first attempt to see their regular doctor but going to the hospital is necessary if they are concerned for their health and safety, or that of the person they are caring for.

Meanwhile at the Argenteuil hospital in Lachute, which is operated by the Québec government’s Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux des Laurentides regional health authority, Communications Agent Julie Lemieux-Coté said there was an increase in patients and wait times during the holiday season, and also attributed the spike to various viruses as the cause.

Lemieux-Coté would not provide any specific numbers on holiday wait times at the Lachute facility, but for January 12, the average amount of time a patient was admitted to the emergency department was 19 hours and 24 minutes.  The regional average was 30 hours and 12 minutes.  There were eight stretchers available for patients in the emergency department, but 10 patients required them, leading to a 125 per cent occupancy of available emergency beds.

Out of the 60 people who were patients at the Lachute emergency department on January 12, eight arrived by ambulance.  The rest arrived at the hospital by other means of transportation.

Lemieux-Coté emphasized that the reasons people visit the emergency department are varied and include more serious reasons such as cardiac and pulmonary issues along with injuries from accidents.

In order to reduce emergency waiting times, Lemieux-Coté urged patients to first try and get an appointment with their doctor or visit a walk-in medical clinic.