Ontario hospitals are working together in an "unprecedented" way to cope with the crush of patients with flu-like symptoms, Health Minister Deb Matthews said Wednesday.
Hospitals are doing everything they can to stay on top of the flu season, with patients jamming emergency departments in places like London and Toronto, she said.
According to officials, there have been 2,518 confirmed cases of influenza in Ontario so far, up from 1,075 cases reported two weeks ago.
"There's no question, we've had a lower vaccination rate this year than in past years, and we're seeing the result in our emergency departments today," Matthews said.
In the minister's hometown of London, Ont., hospital officials are warning that wait times in emergency rooms are too long and there aren't enough beds for patients.
Officials at the University and Victoria hospitals are considering cancelling surgeries, and are asking patients with minor injuries to go to their family doctor or a walk-in clinic for treatment.
Hospitals are doing what they can to avoid putting off surgeries, Matthews said.
Some hospitals that don't have space to take in more patients are transferring people to other facilities that have the room, she said.
"Our hospitals are working very hard to work with the increased pressure, and by-and-large, they're doing a very, very good job," she said
"There haven't been any ambulance bypass alerts out there. They are functioning, but they are functioning with very high volumes."
The province is monitoring the situation closely and following where the outbreaks are occurring, Matthews said.
"I'm pleased — very pleased actually — with how the hospitals have been able to respond," she added.
"They're working together in a way that is unprecedented, helping each other out."
Ontario can expect to see a second wave of the flu, but it's not too late to protect yourself, Matthews said.
She's urging everyone who hasn't received their flu shot to get the vaccine as soon as possible.
The province has five million doses of the vaccine and about four million have been distributed, she said.
However, the latest estimates suggest that just over 20 per cent of people have received the flu shot, she said.
The uptake is usually around 35 per cent. During last year's H1N1 pandemic, it was 45 per cent.
Medical officials have speculated that some people aren't getting the shot because they feel "pandemic-ed out" after last year. Others say they just don't have time in their busy lives to get the flu shot.
Officials say getting the pandemic vaccine last year won't protect you from this year's H3N2 influenza, which is particularly hard on the very young and the very old as well as pregnant women.