Emergency room closures across central Newfoundland are funnelling patients to the larger hospital in Grand Falls-Windsor, leading to delays for ambulances and longer wait times for care.
Emergency rooms at the Connaigre Peninsula Health Centre, Baie Verte Peninsula Health Centre and Green Bay Community Health Centre all faced temporary closures or diversions this week, forcing some patients to travel to the ER Grand Falls-Windsor.
As a result of more people needing care at the facility, reports on social media suggested multiple ambulances were parked outside the hospital waiting to offload patients due to a lack of available beds.
Dr. Jared Butler, Central Health's medical director of primary care, said that although the health authority tries to keep diversions to a minimum, it's usually a worst case scenario.
"It's happened intermittently in recent times, and it absolutely is something we don't want to see happen on a day-to-day basis for our staff," Butler told CBC News Friday.
Butler said beds at the hospital are available, but the number varies based on how many people move through the emergency room. He said there are both high-pressure and low-pressure times, but noted the hospital has seen more high-pressure points in recent weeks.
If the emergency room begins to fill beyond capacity, Butler said Central Health is prepared to find ways to mitigate the impact.
"That could be transferring patients to other facilities where there is capacity, trying to create capacity within the building as well, and also utilizing other support mechanisms," he said. "Like our health hubs, like our virtual emergency rooms and some support services we have in the community."
Limiting offloading delays for ambulances is of particular importance, Butler said, as patients who need them often require more urgent care. Butler said the health-care transportation system works best when people can get treatment in a facility as close to them as possible.
"You do not want to have the ambulance there any longer than necessary. That's why we look at ways to move patients through the system as fast as possible," he said. "Trying to limit offload delays is important for us."
If a clinic is temporary closed or diverted, Butler said the health authority does have tools outside the emergency room, including virtual emergency rooms and collaborative health clinics.
"They are new, people are not used to this model, and of course a lot of education needs to come into this," Butler said. "Experience with the system and understanding that this model can work to support you in your time of need."