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I'm sure it won't surprise anyone at UHN to know that influenza is putting a lot of pressure on the system – at UHN and across the GTA. Our Emergency Departments are seeing many flu patients and some are requiring admission. This, in turn, is creating enormous pressures within the hospital and we are opening flex beds, using the Nursing Resource Team to capacity and holding some admitted patients in the emergency departments for longer periods of time. This means that we are also seeing an increase in overtime and agency use, something that we try to avoid whenever we can because it places stress on our staff and increases our costs. At this point, I don't think there's a bed in the hospital that we aren't using and this year has been particularly challenging given that we had H1N1, the G20 and now this seasonal flu – all of which have added to our financial pressures.
Our sister hospitals in the city are experiencing the same difficulties. In speaking with Michael Gardam, I take some comfort from the thought that there appears to have been a peak in flu activity over the holidays and that we should expect to see activity decrease soon. But, flu can sometimes deliver the unexpected so I am encouraging you to get a flu shot if you haven't already taken advantage of the roaming flu carts. The shot can save you from a miserable few days, protect your family and also protect your patients. In addition, it will have everyone here and able to work at a time when we are experiencing this heavy pressure on the units.
We will do everything within our power to avoid cancelling elective surgeries but we are looking at the possibility that, if this situation doesn't ease, that we will need to cancel surgeries later this week.
I would like to thank everyone for rising to this challenge, as you have done throughout the year. I'd also like to say that our relationship with the Community Care Access Centres has never been better and that all of the work in coordinating patient flow has certainly been of enormous help in this flu surge and the other events of this year.