Little to no room in eastern Ontario for COVID-19 patients from other regions, say officials

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In eastern Ontario, some health units say there's limited capacity to take on COVID-19 and ICU patients from other regions as the province looks to relocate people from hospitals that have no more room.

A memo from Ontario Health obtained by CBC earlier this week indicates hospitals are being told to prepare to activate emergency plans immediately.

Hospitals that have intensive care space were told by Ontario Health to reserve one-third of those beds for transfers from hospitals that have no more room in their intensive care units.

During his weekly briefing, Dr. Paul Roumeliotis with the Eastern Ontario Health Unit, said there's already a sharp surge of cases in the region, with Cornwall, Ont., leading the way in both case count and hospitalizations. The Cornwall Community Hospital has been designated as the regional COVID-19 ICU, and the system is already under strain.

There are a growing number of COVID-19 patients at the hospital with three in the ICU already.

Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press
Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

"It might be difficult to accommodate further patients," Roumeliotis said, but added the system would do its best to try and increase capacity.

'Trying to be ready'

Kingston Health Sciences Centre president and CEO Dr. David Pichora said while there are few COVID-19 patients in that region, the hospital has had many beds occupied since the fall.

With modelling numbers, the request from Ontario Health doesn't come as a surprise, but Pichora said KHSC has already been taking in patient transfers from southeastern Ontario and beyond.

"What's different here is ... the fact that hospitals in certain parts of the province are getting really pushed to the limits of their capacity," Pichora said.

A field hospital at the site of the former St. Mary's Hospital is being developed to help with COVID-19 patients but won't be ready for another few weeks.

In the meantime, Pichora said work is being done to increase capacity in the immediate future, but it's unclear what the need will be before KHSC receives specific requests from Ontario Health.

"We're trying to be ready on a variety of fronts, expecting that they may be surgical patients or medical patients and maybe ICU patients. They may be COVID or non-COVID patients."