The Grey Bruce Health Services (GBHS) is reminding patients seeking non urgent medical care to find alternatives to their local Emergency Department (ED).

GBHS is seeing an increase in wait times at Emergency Departments across its six hospitals, said a recent media release from GBHS, and many patients are arriving with minor health concerns that do not require urgent care.

To reduce wait times at EDs, and to ensure critical patients get the care they need, the public is being encouraged to seek alternatives to the ED for minor health issues, the release said.

"Our EDs are busier than usual, and like hospitals across Ontario, many of our departments are short staffed," said Dr Sunil Mehta, Chief of Owen Sound Hospital Emergency Department. “If you are having a medical emergency, call 9-1-1 immediately. If you have a minor issue that can be treated by your family doctor, please try that option first," Mehta added.

Patients who do arrive at a GBHS Emergency Department for a minor issue could be waiting for several hours, the release said.

For minor health issues that do not require immediate attention, there are phone and virtual options. Health Connect Ontario, formerly Telehealth, is a provincially run phone line that is available 24 hours a day seven days a week where patients can speak directly to a nurse for advice. Health Connect Ontario can be reached by calling 8-1-1, and if in doubt, nurses can help determine if a visit to the Emergency Room (ER) is advisable.

Virtual visits with a GBHS doctor are also available every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Virtual urgent care is a great option for those who need to see a doctor but cannot get in to see their family physician, or are not sick enough to go to an Emergency Department. Users need to have a phone or other device with audio and video capability to connect with the doctor. In most cases, virtual care is faster than waiting in an ER. Patients of all ages are able to utilize this free program, with children under 18 requiring an adult for registration.

Patients must first register online at the GBHS website prior to getting a virtual appointment. Registration is available at