KHSC to reduce weekend hours at Urgent Care Centre

Kingston Health Sciences Centre’s Hotel Dieu Hospital site. Photo by Phillip Stafford/Kingstonist.

Soon, those seeking care on weekends will have to start watching the clock if they hope to visit the Urgent Care Centre at Hotel Dieu Hospital.

Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC) stated tha,t on Saturday, Aug. 26, 2023, the Urgent Care Centre (UCC) will reduce hours to 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. According to a release from the organization, the decision to reduce weekend hours was made in order to ensure adequate physician staffing at the Emergency Department (ED), located at the Kingston General Hospital (KGH) site.

Weekday operating hours are not impacted, remaining active from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday to Friday. In the release, KHSC reminded the public that the UCC caps the daily number of patients that can be seen, which means it may also close registration earlier than the posted closing time. The cap is determined daily, based on the number of patients, physician and nurse staffing levels, wait times, and the complexity of patients receiving care. 

“Despite our recruitment efforts, we continue to be significantly short-staffed and our doctors and nurses are stretched thin,” said Dr. David Messenger, Head of the Department of Emergency Medicine for KHSC. “We need to take this action to preserve access to safe, timely, and high-quality emergency care for patients with serious illnesses and injuries from across our region.”

KHSC said that as staffing challenges became a significant concern last summer, the UCC first began capping the number of patients that could be seen each day to enable health-care teams to spend the appropriate amount of time with each patient and to provide safe and effective care.

According to the release, over the last six months, emergency physician staffing in particular has decreased further, resulting in this reduction of weekend hours at the UCC. This is due to an inability to fill all the shifts required to maintain current operating hours at the UCC, while also filling all shifts necessary to provide care for the high volume of patients at the ED, which serves as southeastern Ontario’s major referral centre for trauma, stroke, cardiology, subspecialized surgery, and mental health and addiction care, KHSC noted.

“For the last several years our entire health-care system has been under tremendous pressure as all hospitals across the country experience similar issues. No single organization will be able to solve these systemic problems on their own and we continue to work with our peer hospitals, government and partners to find sustainable solutions,” stated Dr. David Pichora, KHSC’s president and CEO.

“In the meantime, we recognize this is unwelcome news for our community, but rest assured, our priority is to focus our resources to provide emergency medical care in our ED which is a critical resource for the entire southeast.”

The ED at the KGH site will remain open and available 24/7 to provide care for patients with serious illnesses and injuries. The UCC, meanwhile, continues to be available seven days per week to serve patients with urgent health concerns, with the operational hours changed as outlined.

“We want to remind the community that the UCC serves patients that have new medical conditions and injuries that can’t wait to be treated in another setting such as a primary care or family doctor’s clinic, walk-in or virtual care clinic, or a community pharmacy,” Messenger added. “Examples of urgent conditions include cuts needing stitches, wounds or burns, sprains or suspected minor broken bones, and symptoms of infection – such as pain, fever, vomiting, rash – in otherwise healthy people. The UCC is not an appropriate place to seek care for chronic and ongoing health issues or mental health concerns.”

According to KHSC, many visitors to the UCC arrive with conditions that would be better treated by family doctors, or by community pharmacists (who may renew existing prescriptions and prescribe medication for 13 common concerns, such as non-reoccurring urinary tract infections, tick bites, muscles strains and basic skin irritations, and infections.

For critical or life-threatening conditions that need immediate attention, patients should not hesitate to go to the nearest emergency department or call 911. Medical emergencies include heavy bleeding, serious shortness of breath, a broken major bone, severe and sudden pain or change in the ability to move, speak or think, KHSC detailed.

KHSC suggests local residents visit to learn more about the alternate care options available in our communities.

3 thoughts on “KHSC to reduce weekend hours at Urgent Care Centre

  • I understand that there is a shortage of medical personnel, but give Saturday and Sunday is when most doctors offices are closed and this is one of the few place you can seek medical treatment on the weekend. Wouldn’t make more sense to close early or open later on week day?

  • So. Let me get this straight. There are literally thousands of Kingstonians without a primary care physician and that most “kind-hearted” of premiers, Ford, decides, with his minions, to underfund what is in most cases, the ONLY access to medical care for those thousands of people so they have to, again, cut hours. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. *smh*
    We’ve GOT to get him and his cronies out of office before they decimate this province. Two tiered health care? Welcome!! (where’s my cut?). Sell off the Greenbelt? SURE! Take it all! (wheres my cut?). Sell a long standing attraction that’s still profitable to developers? Woohoo! My door is always open! (where’s my cut?) It’s time people. It’s time.

  • PS: to my above comment. I am referring to the fact that at both hospitals, drs and nurses are short staffed because of Ford’s policies. Sorry for any misunderstanding.

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