Situation in Ont. hospitals are expected to worsen as doctors isolate themselves and admissions increase

Pressure on Ontario hospitals is expected to worsen in the coming weeks as more staff are forced to quit their jobs due to COVID-19 and admissions due to the rise of the virus, the chief said of the association of hospitals in the province, calling it a dire situation.

Beds are filling quickly, with 2,279 COVID-19 patients hospitalized on Thursday, up from 440 two weeks earlier.

And while the 300 COVID-19 patients in intensive care units are paltry compared to the peak of the third wave of the pandemic, when 900 people infected with the virus were in intensive care, that does not mean that workers in the people breathe more easily, said Anthony Dale, president of the Ontario Hospital Association.

“We still have some very, very sick people. We still have a huge number of people admitted to intensive care,” Dale said. “I don’t know where the ceiling will be.”

As of December 31, when 1,144 people had been hospitalized for COVID-19, Ontario Health said the overall acute care bed capacity – which includes intensive care beds – was 20,000, and 18,000 were occupied, of which just over 2,000 in intensive care.

With the number of COVID-19 cases continuing to rise – increasing so rapidly that shown in a graph, it looks like a vertical line, Dale said – it stands to reason that hospitalization rates will do the same.

The situation inside hospitals is made worse by the growing number of doctors, nurses and other staff who have to self-isolate because they have contracted or been exposed to the virus.

Dale said his organization was ignoring the number of employees absent from work, but many hospitals are reporting massive absences due to COVID-19 diagnoses and some have started making tough decisions to adjust.

Niagara Health, for example, has suspended the vaccination requirement for its staff “given the intensity of the fifth wave and the urgent need to focus on our response.”

“When our mandatory COVID-19 vaccination program was put in place in October 2021, the Omicron variant was not planned,” the regional health care provider said in a statement.

“Those who are not vaccinated will continue to be required to participate in regular antigen testing, and our occupational health and safety team works directly with them. “

The same group has announced that it is temporarily closing one of its emergency care centers so that it can redeploy staff to emergency rooms.

In Kitchener, Ont., Meanwhile, the Grand River Hospital said 200 of its 4,300 staff were self-isolating after testing positive for COVID-19 or being exposed to someone who has it. do.

“Staffing in some units is a challenge that is mitigated on a daily basis,” hospital spokesperson Cheryl Evans said in an email.

“We have limited surgeries to treat only urgent, emerging and cancer cases until January 15 and are continually reviewing hospital staff, so that we can redeploy staff and other resources to support the delivery of urgent and hospital care to our community where it is needed. “

Evans said the hospital is also turning to virtual care where possible.

A spokeswoman for St. Mary’s General Hospital, also in Kitchener, Ont., Said 89 of its 1,700 employees were in segregation.

Bed capacity and staff shortages were a challenge before the pandemic generally operating at or near full capacity – something our regional hospital partners have also experienced. With more people seeking COVID-related care, these challenges have met. a critical level, ”Dayna said. said Giorgio.

She said that among the staff who are sick, many only show mild symptoms because they are fully immunized.

Dale, of the OHA, said it was happening across the province. People who are fully vaccinated are much less likely to end up in hospital, so the high vaccination rate appears to avert a disaster in the province.

“It is really the unvaccinated who are extremely vulnerable in this environment,” he said. “If (Omicron) were the original version of COVID-19, that would be the stuff of nightmares.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on January 7, 2022.

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