The Chatham-Kent Health Alliance (CKHA) is beginning to transfer some patients to London, Ont., on Tuesday as COVID-19 cases push the hospital to its occupancy limit.
"We are at a crossroads in our community," CKHA president and CEO Lori Marshall said on a conference call with media on Tuesday. "We are experiencing, certainly, the most significant demand on hospital services that we have seen at CKHA throughout the entire pandemic."
Marshall said as of Tuesday, CKHA's medical, surgical, and critical care occupancy is "exceeding 100 per cent."
"That occupancy in critical care represented nine out of 10 ICU beds being occupied by individuals who are COVID-positive, and six out of 12 of our level two progressive care unit are COVID-positive, as well," she said. "So, a total of 15 out of our 22 critical care beds occupied by individuals who are COVID-positive, representing 70 per cent of those individuals being COVID-positive in the hospital."
Marshall called the situation "unsustainable," and said CKHA is in the process of transferring patients to London, with consent. She said two patients were expected to be transferred on Tuesday.
Dr. Pervez Faruqi, CKHA chief of staff, said 14 of the 15 COVID-positive patients occupying ICU beds have not been vaccinated against the virus.
"Across the hospital, we have 34 COVID patients," he said. "25 of them are unvaccinated."
"These figures speak for themselves that there's a much-higher risk of getting seriously sick and requiring ventilation and critical care in unvaccinated patients," Faruqi said. "I would like to urge all community members who have so far been on the fence, or not decided to get vaccinated, to please do so."
Caen Suni, CKHA vice-president of clinical programs and operations, said currently, about 58 staff at CKHA are directly affected by COVID-19, either having tested positive or isolating.
The hospital will also be re-deploying staff as needed, Suni said.
Urgent and emergency procedures, including cancer procedures, will continue, and Suni said 14 operating room staff will be redeployed to the hospital's inpatient medicine, ICU, and inpatient surgery units.
However, some other CKHA services, including endoscopy, ambulatory care, and out-patient clinics, will be affected, Suni said. That will result in 175 procedures per week being postponed.
"About 120 of those would be scheduled surgeries for inpatient procedures, and the others would be elective procedures," he said.
Suni said CKHA is taking guidance from the province in which services are being provided, and reductions will remain in place until at least Jan. 17, "at which point a revision will occur at the provincial level and we monitor on going week to week."
"I also want to point out that the resources that are open and available are constantly assessed by the most-qualified people to make those decisions, and those are our clinicians," Suni said. "As patient cases come up ... we ensure that the patients who need care the most are still able to receive it."
"But otherwise, those non-emergent and non-urgent procedures are meant to be rescheduled when [we] are permitted to do so."