Kitchener's Grand River Hospital has been forced to open extra beds and cancel five elective surgeries Thursday to deal with a high volume of very ill patients.

In a press release, Sue Robertson, GRH's vice president of clinical services and chief nursing officer, says "Hospitals sometimes experience surges of volume and need to act to ensure patients who need an inpatient stay have access to a bed."

Volume in the emergency department was up 11 per cent in January and five per cent in February 2011, compared to the same months a year ago.

The emergency room saw an average 167 patients per day in January and 169 patients per day in February. However, there were seven days in 2011 when over 190 patients visited the emergency room.

The last time volume hit that level was during the H1N1 flu outbreak, according to the hospital.

Robertson says "We're doing everything we can to deal with this surge, and are very sorry for any inconvenience that patients and families are facing during this busy time."

Despite the high volumes, the hospital is continuing to advise patients to go to the emergency room if necessary. But they are also encouraging people to consult with their family physician or Telehealth Ontario to help determine if the visit is needed.