Plan Ahead: Avoid an Emergency Department Visit During the Holidays

December 13, 2023

Even Santa is checking off his list to prioritize healthcare preparations before the holiday season so he does not end up in the emergency department on Christmas Eve.

Halton Healthcare is encouraging everyone to plan ahead this year by completing a Holiday Healthcare Checklist. Says Santa, “A little proactive planning now may help you avoid an unnecessary visit to an emergency department during the holidays.”

It’s no secret that hospital emergency departments get busier this time of year, especially with respiratory illnesses making their rounds.

Dr. Kelly Williams, Medical Director of the Emergency Department at Georgetown Hospital, emphasizes, "We prioritize patients based on the severity of their conditions rather than time of arrival. This means those with life-threatening conditions like head injuries, seizures, extensive bleeding, or cardiac events will be seen first. During peak times, patients could face many hours of waiting, especially if their conditions are not deemed medical emergencies."

Understanding the available healthcare options in the community during the holidays can help our emergency medicine teams focus on those patients who are experiencing genuine medical emergencies.

“No one wants to come to the hospital during the holidays. Take care of your healthcare needs now before the season gets hectic so you can fully enjoy the festivities,” advises Dr. Salman Khalid, Medical Director, Emergency Department, Milton District Hospital. “Plan to renew your prescriptions in advance, stock up on all your medical supplies and get up to date on all of your vaccinations.”

Dr. Keith Martin, Chief of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Oakville Trafalgar Memorial Hospital, adds, "While we're always here for you in a medical emergency, there might be other healthcare options that can provide quicker care if your condition is not an emergency. Reach out to your family doctor or nurse practitioner, visit a walk-in clinic, consult your pharmacist, or visit Health811 online to connect directly with a registered nurse 24/7."

If you do have to come to the emergency department, make sure you bring your Ontario Health Card, all your medications and your healthcare information. If you are coming with a baby or a child, don’t forget to stock up your baby bag with diapers, bottles, blankets, comfort items and toys or activities to keep them busy. As an added option, you can also check the estimated wait times to see a medical provider in the emergency department at each of our community hospitals on Halton Healthcare’s website.

The staff, physicians and volunteers of Halton Healthcare wish everyone a safe, happy and healthy holiday and thank you for your continued patience and kindness.

You can get more information about Care During the Holidays on our website: