Erie Shores Healthcare in Leamington October 29. 2014 file photo. (Photo by Ricardo Veneza)

Lack of primary care boosts visits to emergency department in Leamington

Erie Shores Healthcare has seen a significant increase in volume to its emergency department, and officials partly blame a lack of primary care.

The hospital in Leamington said it is on track to see an increase of 37,000 visits or 15 per cent this fiscal year.  The percentage of patients arriving at the ED in an ambulance has increased by 45 per cent.

Officials said the increase would put emergency department visits on par with EDs elsewhere in the Erie St. Clair Local Health Integration Network.

“Our hospital has invested $1 million in additional front line resources,” said CEO Janice Dawson. “Our staff and physicians are doing an amazing job to not allow this significant increase in their workload impact the quality of care.”

The hospital is also serving a larger area of Essex County.  It now serves a catchment area with a population of 108,000.

Erie Shores Healthcare said the increase started in October 2018, and since then visits have climbed 19 per cent.

Along with the increase in volume, officials said patients are sicker and require admission to the hospital.  Occupancy rates have soared above 100 per cent and as high as 120 per cent over the past two years.

Despite the increase in the catchment area and the increase in emergency department visits, the province ranked Erie Shores Healthcare number one for the time it takes to get admitted patients into a bed.