Joseph Brant Hospital in Burlington at capacity as respiratory virus season takes off


Published December 11, 2023 at 12:50 pm

joseph brant hospital burlington over capacity flu covid rsv

Joseph Brant Hospital, a community teaching hospital that serves the city of Burlington, is currently at capacity as respiratory virus season takes off. 

Maria Babbage, director of corporate communications with the hospital, told that the hospital has opened beds and is over 100 per cent capacity.

“There are many factors that can impact hospital capacity, including surges of illness and the number of patients who no longer require acute care but are not able to be discharged to a more suitable care setting and therefore remain in hospital,” she said in an email. 

Babbage also said that Joseph Brant Hospital is, much like other healthcare facilities throughout the province, seeing higher than normal emergency department use–something she says is consistent with historic trends noted during the winter months when respiratory viruses such as influenza and RSV spread more easily. 

Influenza and RSV surges are now accompanied by increased transmission of COVID-19. 

Last week, the Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) urged all Ontario residents to get the latest COVID-19 and flu shots, as well as the RSV vaccine, if they are eligible. 

The call emerged after Ontario’s top doctor, Dr. Kieran Moore, called on residents to protect themselves from circulating viruses. 

“With the winter holiday season fast approaching, Ontario hospitals have already seen a significant influx of hospitalizations due to seasonal respiratory illnesses,” the OHA said in a news release. 

“Updating your vaccinations not only keeps your families and communities safe and happy during the holiday season, it also helps alleviate the additional pressures our health care system experiences during this time of year. COVID-19, the flu and RSV have the potential to add significant pressure on heavily stressed health care systems and have serious, potentially life-threatening consequences for some individuals.” 

According to the OHA, hospital occupancy in Ontario is at 97.8 per cent and ICU occupancy was 75.8 per cent as of Dec. 3.

As of Nov. 30, the pediatric ICU occupancy rate is 76 percent. 

Echoing Babbage’s point about people remaining in hospital despite being candidates for care in a different facility (such as a long-term care home), the OHA said that as of mid-November, there were approximately 6,200 patients waiting to be released into another facility or home care. 

While Joseph Brant’s emergency department is currently busier than usual, it is typically the least crowded ED in Halton.

According to the Auditor General’s annual report on emergency departments in Ontario, the shortest wait among Halton’s four hospitals is Burlington, at 1.4 hours.

Close behind is Milton District Hospital, with a 1.5-hour average wait time.

The average wait at Georgetown Hospital is an hour longer, at 2.5 hours. The longest wait in the region is at Oakville-Trafalgar Memorial Hospital at 3.3 hours, which ranks 119th out of the 124 hospitals listed.

The wait times are based on emergency departments and urgent care centres that report wait-time information to Ontario Health. Some small hospitals are not currently required to report such information.

The report was tabled in the Ontario Legislature earlier this week by acting auditor general Nick Stavropoulos.

Babbage said staff at Joseph Brant are working diligently to provide all patients with the appropriate care. 

“Our staff and physicians are working tirelessly in the [emergency department] and across all areas of the hospital to ensure that patients receive safe, high-quality care when they need it,” Babbage says.  

“We continue to work with our local and regional healthcare partners to ensure that patients are able to access the care they need in the right setting and avoid readmission to the hospital.”

– With files from Jeffrey Allen

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