12/29/2014 10:56 EST | Updated 02/28/2015 05:59 EST

Steps taken to free bed space as flu bug bugs Winnipeg's emergency rooms

WINNIPEG - Hospitals in Winnipeg are boosting their medical staff and taking other steps to deal with a big increase in emergency department visits and admissions due to influenza-like illnesses.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority says hospitals recorded more than 900 ER visits in a single day on the weekend, while the average is 700 to 750 a day.

The authority says only 10 to 12 per cent of people who come to an ER are admitted to hospital, but the severity of the illness in people showing up in the last few days has pushed the admission rate to more than 20 per cent.

Besides more medical staff, the WRHA is increasing homecare and sending patients from outside Winnipeg back to their own health regions to help free up bed space.

Other measures include transferring patients waiting in hospital for a personal-care home of their choice to the first available home that meets their needs.

The authority says based on the most available flu surveillance data, influenza activity within the Winnipeg health region has increased significantly.

Lori Lamont, the authority's vice-president and chief nursing officer, says in a statement that Winnipeggers and Manitobans with serious injuries and illnesses will continue to be seen quickly at the city's six emergency departments.

"Those with minor or less severe injuries or illnesses can expect longer waits in emergency rooms as we look after an increasing number of very ill people requiring admission to hospital."

Lamont also says that for non-emergency situations, people can see their family doctor or go to a number of health-care outlets around the city, including two QuickCare Clinics where the hours of operation are being extended.