Where and when to get healthcare over the holidays

While the holidays are a time of joy among friends and family, it’s often a hectic time and it is important to stay healthy and plan ahead in the event of illness.  

“We can’t stress enough that people need to be prepared and know how to access health services during the holidays,” says Dr. Kathryn Armstrong, Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre’s (RVH) emergency department (ED) clinical director. “We hope that people don’t require emergency care over the holidays, but if they do, we are always open. Many family physician offices are closed and the urgent care and walk-in clinics have modified schedules so our ED volumes may be high and wait times may be longer than usual.”

If you do need to visit the ED, remember to bring your health card, along with a list of your medications. Remember, patients are treated based on how urgent their condition is and not on a first-come, first-served basis. 

If your condition is not an emergency, there are five walk-in clinics in Barrie. The Barrie Family Medicine Clinics are located at 125 Bell Farm Road, 121 Wellington St., 829 Big Bay Point Road and, at Innisfil, at 2101 Innisfil Beach Road. The hours of operation can be found online or by calling 705-726-1544. The Huronia Urgent Care Clinic is located at 480 Huronia Road and can be reached at 705-792-0933. Clinics are closed on Dec. 25 and have modified hours during the holidays. Call the clinics or consult their websites before heading out.

If you are unsure if a trip to the ED is required, you can call Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000. It’s a free and confidential telephone service providing health advice or general health information from a registered nurse. Please note that, in emergency situations, you should call 911 first as Telehealth is not able to diagnose your illness or prescribe medicine.

“Always seek medical attention when you are experiencing pain or tightness in the chest, shortness of breath or when you experience a sudden drooping in your face, difficulty raising your arms, and slurred or jumbled speech,” says Armstrong. “You should bring your child to the ED if he or she has significant vomiting and diarrhea with very little urination. You should also bring your young baby (under three months of age) to hospital if he or she develops a fever exceeding 38.0 C (100.4 F) or if you have any concerns with a sick child of any age.”

If you have a loved one who is spending the holidays in hospital and you are unable to visit, you can send them a message through RVH’s Best Wishes service which can be accessed via the RVH website.

“The delivery of safe, high quality care remains our top priority regardless of the holiday season,” says Janice Skot, RVH president and CEO. “We make preparations well in advance of the holidays to ensure we are adequately and appropriately staffed. Our dedicated and skilled team is here to provide safe, high-quality care: 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”

Other tips to keep you and your family healthy

Ask your doctor’s office what back-up coverage they recommend when they are closed, such as after-hours clinics or an on-call service. Keep an updated list of emergency telephone numbers and post in a visible place, such as on your refrigerator. Make sure everyone in your family has enough medical supplies, prescription and non-prescription medications, needles, alcohol swabs, etc., and make sure inhalers, respirators, oxygen and glucose-testing machines are in good working order. Know where the nearest 24-hour pharmacy is located and remind visiting family members and friends to bring their health cards or health coverage documents and an adequate supply of prescription medications with them. Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly to stop the spread of germs, protecting you and your family. 

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