Kingston hospitals ask community to celebrate safely this St. Patrick’s Day

With St. Patrick’s Day historically bringing multiple days of large parties and revelry to Kingston — particularly in the University District and downtown core — the organization overseeing the city’s hospitals is requesting party-goers exercise caution as March 17 approaches.

A St. Patrick’s Day parade in downtown Kingston in 2013. Kingstonist file photo.

Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC), the region’s largest acute care academic healthcare organization consisting of multiple sites, including Kingston General Hospital (KGH) and Hotel Dieu Hospital (HDH), formally issued the request in a press release on Wednesday, Mar. 16, 2022. Noting that large St. Patrick’s Day celebrations are expected tomorrow, KHSC said it has put contingency plans in place to support increase in patient demand. However, with pre-existing high patient volumes already placing stress on hospital resources, the organization is urging those how plan on attending such events to “celebrate safely”.

“Although this is the first time that many individuals will be able to legally gather in groups due to relaxed Public Health measures, it’s important to remember that we are still in the midst of a pandemic and our hospitals are still under pressure,” said Dr. David Pichora, KHSC President and CEO, in a statement. “We continue to see very high-volumes of very sick patients and have very little inpatient capacity, we still are experiencing staffing shortages, and our health-care teams are tired after working through the pandemic. We are asking everyone in our community to exercise caution so that we avoid as many unnecessary hospital visits as possible.”

KHSC said it has put plans in place to increase the number of staff available in their emergency departments, and that it is opening extra space for patient care. However, as the largest hospital organization in the region, KHSC sees “the sickest and most critically ill people” come through its emergency departments as the result of events like traumatic injuries, strokes, and heart attacks, explained Carol McIntosh, Director of Urgent and Emergency Care for KHSC.

“We are very concerned when we hear about large parties that are planned for St. Patrick’s Day and how they may impact our services,” McIntosh said. “Aside from over-consumption of alcohol and drugs, [dangerous activities like] throwing beer bottles, climbing on roofs and hydro poles could lead to very serious injuries.”

KHSC is also asking members of the public to keep area roadways open to traffic, particularly to allow emergency services, such as paramedics, unimpeded access to the hospitals. Previous years’ St. Patrick’s Day revelries, which have often stretched throughout the entire weekend nearest to March 17, have generated large street parties leading to road closures in the University District.

Images from St. Patrick’s Day festivities in 2019. Photos by Cris Vilela and First Response Media.

Specifically addressing the University District’s anticipated St. Patrick’s Day parties, Kingston Police and the City of Kingston reinstated the University District Safety Initiative last week. Although both Police and the City have reported comparatively smaller, more manageable partying over St. Patrick’s Day in 2019, 2020, and 2021, streets within the University District still had to be closed as a result of the partying in those years.

Where to go for health care needs on St. Patrick’s Day

To “ensure that health care teams can continue to provide the highest level of care” to those in the region, KHSC is asking that area residents take note of the following information if health care services are needed. Those with less-serious illnesses or injuries are asked to seek medical attention in the appropriate place, so that those in the most urgent need can be seen as efficiently as possible at the KGH emergency department.

Primary Care
Patients with non-life-threatening illnesses or injuries that require access to a medical professional should first consider accessing care from their family doctors or at a local walk-in clinic. A number of walk-in clinics are located across Kingston; you can find the closest one by visiting: www.southeasthealthline.ca

Campus Observation Room (COR) at Queen’s University
Queen’s students can access COR, a medical detox service run by Student Wellness Services that offers a confidential, non-judgmental, safely-monitored place where students who have had too much to drink can sleep it off. COR’s main site is located in Leonard Hall on Queen’s University campus. For more information, visit: https://www.queensu.ca/studentwellness/health-promotion/campus-observation-room-cor

Urgent Care Centre at Hotel Dieu Hospital
Located Hotel Dieu Hospital (166 Brock Street), the Urgent Care Centre provides care for patients with urgent injuries or illnesses that need to be addressed within 24 hours and cannot wait for a visit to a family physician. This could include deep cuts and wounds that require stitches, sprains and strains or deep bruises, mild to moderate asthma attacks, minor broken bones, insect bites and rashes. The Urgent Care Centre is open every day between 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m.

Emergency Department at Kingston General Hospital
The Emergency Department provides care for patients with life- or limb-threatening illnesses or injuries, or patients who have a high likelihood of requiring hospital admission. This could include heavy bleeding, severe difficulty breathing, persistent and severe chest pain or pressure, or sudden confusion and pain not relieved by pain medication. The Emergency Department is open 24 hours a day. Patients who are experiencing chest pain, severe respiratory distress, allergic reactions, or the symptoms of stroke (sudden onset of arm/leg weakness, facial droop or slurred speech) should call 911 immediately. 

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