Hospitals warn of cancelled surgeries as COVID-19 cases rise

WINCHESTER – As COVID-19 hospitalizations have increased in the region since Christmas, local hospitals are urging for people to continue to follow public health measures.

Winchester District Memorial Hospital CEO Cholly Boland said that the hospital continues to test people through its Testing Centre and Emergency Room, but there has not been a “significant impact” to rising numbers at that hospital yet.

“We do not have an Intensive Care Unit so any patient seriously ill with COVID would be transferred to another hospital,” Boland explained. “We occasionally assist other hospitals, if needed, by accepting non-COVID patients from their areas.”

Boland said that the hospital is in regular communication with all hospitals in the Champlain health regional planning group.

“That’s been our experience, so far, in this second wave,” he said.

The situation at the Cornwall Community Hospital has become more urgent. CCH has the only Level Three or Intensive Care Unit in the Eastern Ontario Health Unit region and is designated as the only location for COVID-19 patients to go if hospitalized.

As of the January 11th update from the EOHU, 18 people from the region are currently hospitalized, five of which are in ICU. Four of the patents are located outside of the EOHU region in hospitals in the Ottawa area.

According to Ontario Ministry of Health statistics, ICU space in the EOHU region is at 100 per cent capacity, while specific COVID-19 ICU space is at 18 per cent. The CCH has 11 ICU beds in total.

CCH President and CEO Jeanette Despatie called on the community to take action to stop the case count from rising.

“We need everyone in this community to take all measures to stop the spread of COVID-19,” Despatie said. “The Ontario health system, including our local hospital, is nearing full capacity.”

The hospital monitors and reports statistics daily and the hospital warned that if trends continue, elective surgery cancellations are possible. “Our community can help us manage this crisis by following Public Health guidelines on physical distancing, limiting interactions, hand-washing and masking,” said Despatie. “There is hope with the vaccine’s development, but our essential health care workers in Cornwall have not been vaccinated and we must protect them by limiting the spread.”

Despatie said the hospital is operating at surge capacity. “Despite perceptions that this problem is a greater concern for larger cities across our province, the COVID-19 patients we are seeing at CCH are very sick,” she said. “Several require extended stays in critical care. We ask local citizens to take precautions and stay safe.”

Current projections from the provincial science advisory table showed that ICU occupancy is at over 400 beds in Ontario. That capacity surge has cancelled non-COVID related surgeries in other parts of Ontario like Toronto and Peel Region.

Phillip Blancher, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Leader