Health system could be overwhelmed by 'very few new cases,' says Horizon CEO

·2 min read

At a briefing Monday on how COVID-19 is affecting Horizon Health Network, president and CEO Karen McGrath said, "we could easily be overwhelmed with a very few new cases."

McGrath said each of the regional Horizon Health centres tries to keep three to five medical beds open, and two to three ICU beds are kept open at each of the five largest hospitals to have room for a surge in COVID-19 patients.

"That doesn't sound like a very large number and it's not a very large number," said McGrath.

"So if, in fact, you have seven or eight people being admitted in a very short time, then in addition to everybody else we're providing care for, that small number could really impact the system and we could become overwhelmed really quickly."

McGrath said, despite possible COVID fatigue, people should follow provincial guidelines and do what they can to stop the spread of the respiratory virus because only a few cases can impact the entire system.

"What happens is then we work very hard to get people out of hospital," said McGrath.

She said if numbers of COVID-19 patients start to rise the first step is to cancel surgeries.

64 staff isolating

McGrath said 64 Horizon staff members are currently in isolation.

She said there are not staff to fill in for these vacancies.

"We are actually looking hour by hour as to how we staff particular areas," said McGrath.

McGrath described the ICUs, emergency rooms and medical beds as "mission critical," meaning that these areas have to be properly staffed.

"That probably means when we get to a certain level, we are redeploying staff from other areas," and other services like surgeries are then cancelled.

Stan Cassidy outbreak

Horizon Health Network and New Brunswick Public Health are investigating a potential COVID-19 exposure at Horizon's Stan Cassidy Centre for Rehabilitation in Fredericton.

McGrath said that about five patients and five staff who had direct contact with the staff member were tested, along with all other staff. Patients at the centre are also being tested for COVID-19.

She said outpatient services have been cancelled for at least a week, while people receiving inpatient care will remain at the centre, but extra precautions are being taken.

"We have isolated patients within our facilities," McGrath said.

She said the health care worker who tested positive for COVID on Saturday was not working at other places within Horizon.