Scarborough’s hospitals were much busier than usual this week thanks to an unwelcome holiday visitor - this season’s influenza virus.
The Scarborough Hospital said it had seen more than 1,000 patients with flu-like symptoms during the past two weeks, “a 51 per cent increase over the same period last year,” and was limiting visitors to admitted patients.
As of Tuesday, Jan. 8, Emergency department volumes were 18 per cent higher than seasonal norms at the General campus and 27 per cent higher at the Birchmount campus.
Those numbers are actually less than the 40 per cent increases reported by some neighbouring hospitals, the hospital said in a release.
“An added challenge this year has been the early onset of the flu season coinciding with the operational slow down over the holidays, both in hospital and community settings,” added Dr. Tom Chan, an emergency physician and TSH chief of staff.
Rouge Valley Health System also said its emergency rooms were very busy, with “much higher than average numbers of patients every day” at its Centenary campus in Scarborough.
“Significant volume increases” have been seen since mid-December, RVHS said Wednesday, Jan. 9, on its website.
“We have been managing this situation constantly and carefully. We are receiving about 20 per cent more patients each day than during the pre-holiday season in early December.”
Both hospitals were asking residents with flu symptoms - fever, cough, headaches, body aches or weakness - to go to their family doctor or community clinic for treatment, noting the province’s health ministry has an online screening tool at Ontario.ca/flu to help people decide whether they should get professional care or stay home.
By Thursday, Jan. 10, RVHS had put no restrictions on visitors, but TSH was limiting visitors to patients in most departments to two a day, adding nurses or physicians could also choose to limit daily visitors to one.
Emergency patients can only be visited by one person a day, the hospital said on its website, which also asked people to come with carefully cleaned hands and avoid visiting if they have any flu symptoms themselves.
Officials from both hospitals said it’s not too late for residents to get the flu shot from a clinic or family doctor.
“This year’s shot is a good match for the strain of influenza currently circulating,” Chan said.
For the first time, vaccination is also being done by pharmacists in some drug stores, and next Saturday, Jan. 19, there is a city-run free flu shot clinic at the East York Civic Centre on Coxwell Avenue from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Toronto Public Health says children five years old and younger, adults over age of 65 and pregnant women are urged especially to get the flu shot because they are at high risk for flu-related complications.