Hospitals across the country are seeing more patients requiring urgent treatment after being declared out of service because of pneumonia, coronavirus or other respiratory illnesses.
Ottawa Health Services says it has received more than 1,200 calls related to respiratory conditions.
The city’s acute care beds have been filled by more than 3,000 patients, including nearly 700 who are in critical condition.
It is also dealing with an epidemic of new coronaviruses that have made it a “critical public health issue,” Health Minister Eric Hoskins said Tuesday.
Ottawa’s emergency department is overflowing with calls.
Hospitals are not able to take on more patients, said Dr. Daniel Nault, the emergency physician at Ottawa’s Ottawa Health Sciences Centre.
Ottawa Public Health is also seeing an increase in calls from people with respiratory conditions, Nault said.
Health Minister Chris Ballard said Ottawa is seeing an “epidemic of new respiratory diseases” and urged people to seek medical care if they have respiratory symptoms.
Health officials are encouraging people to stay home if they experience symptoms of respiratory illness, including cough, runny nose, wheezing, run, shortness of breath, fatigue, fever, muscle aches, sore throat or cough.
Hoskins said he’s not surprised the number of patients at the Ottawa hospital is so high.
“I think people are really concerned about their health,” Hoskins told reporters.
The Ottawa hospital has seen more than 2,500 respiratory illnesses this year, according to a report by Health Canada.
Nault said some of the new coronaviuses are causing a greater spike in hospitalizations than previous outbreaks.
As the epidemic continues to grow, Hoskins has asked the public to stay away from areas where people are congregating.
The minister said the health system has seen a number of new cases in areas where there have been clusters of respiratory illnesses over the past few days.
He said it is also important to remind people that while they can’t be contagious, there are some precautions people should take to reduce the spread of respiratory infections.
At a news conference Tuesday, Hoskin said he doesn’t want to panic patients.
If a patient has symptoms of a respiratory illness but isn’t in critical, they can go to the emergency room, he said.
People who are concerned about respiratory conditions can get help through the Ottawa Health Care Partnership, Hosins said.
He said some hospitals in other cities are doing the same.
In Ottawa, some hospitals are using ventilation equipment and are running ventilation systems with an air-conditioning system.
Agency workers are also checking all air-side doors and windows for any signs of respiratory diseases.
It’s also important for people to get vaccinated, Hosys said.
The department is also taking steps to prevent more respiratory illnesses, including offering free flu shots to anyone who wants one.
Ottawa is also working to distribute vaccine kits to local residents.
Hoskins also said he has instructed Health Canada to issue a travel alert for people in the Ottawa region.
An advisory on the virus has also been issued to Ottawa residents, including in the capital.
The city is currently under a mandatory lockdown, which includes a curfew.
It also means the city is also restricting the public from the roads.