People needing a prescription refill or a family physician's check-up when their doctor’s office is closed for the holidays should not resort to the emergency department of a hospital

Avoid unnecessary visits to the ER over the holidays

A Surrey Memorial Hospital doctor advises people to plan ahead when it comes to health care.

Hospital emergency departments are busy places, and during the winter months, visits to local hospitals can increase dramatically. Fraser Health is asking residents to help by taking simple steps to avoid unnecessary trips to your local emergency department during the busy holiday season.

“We know that emergencies and other serious health concerns happen every day, but some of the influx of patients during the holidays is related to people needing a prescription refill or a family physician’s check-up when their doctor’s office is closed for the holidays,” said Dr. Craig Murray, medical director for Surrey Memorial Hospital’s emergency department.

“People with serious health conditions need our emergency physicians and health care staff to be available when needed, so we are reminding people to plan ahead – check your doctor’s holiday hours and walk-in clinics in your area and get your prescriptions refilled well before you run out to avoid unnecessary trip to emergency during the busy winter season.”

Emergency department admits are triaged by level of seriousness of the symptoms. If you need to visit an emergency department, coming prepared can make your visit shorter. Keep a list of all medications that you take and known allergies with you at all times.

Other steps you can take to avoid an unnecessary trip to an emergency department:

• If you are unsure about what health services you require or where to access them, call 8-1-1. The toll-free HealthLink BC line provides 24/7 confidential health information in over 130 languages including Punjabi, Cantonese and Mandarin.

• Check your symptoms or get more information about a condition online at HealthLink BC or you can order a book format for easy reference at home.

• Take note of the weekend/holiday hours of your local pharmacy/drug store, and ensure your prescriptions are up to date.

• Familiarize yourself with the locations and operating hours of walk-in clinics in your area.

• Get your annual flu shot.

• Wash your hands frequently to avoid spreading and/or contracting viruses and bacteria.

• Rest is best. If you feel like you’re getting the cold or flu, drink plenty of fluids and take it easy.

• To avoid food-borne illnesses, ensure your cooking utensils, containers and food preparation surfaces are cleaned and sanitized after use, especially if they have been in contact with raw foods.

• Store food at the correct temperature (equal to or less than four degrees Celsius or 40 degrees Fahrenheit) and check that it is cooked properly before eating.

• Follow basic safety precautions: Buckle up, don’t drink and drive, don’t leave open flames unattended, and keep alcohol and potential poisonous substances out of reach from children.

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