Southwestern Ontario hospitals surging with COVID-19 patients

·4 min read
In this January 2021 file photo, nurse Michelena Sockett is careful to properly fit her personal protective equipment as she cares for a COVID-19 patient in the ICU at Windsor Regional Hospital. This January, hospitals across our region are dealing with a huge influx of COVID-19 patients.  (Chris Ensing/CBC - image credit)
In this January 2021 file photo, nurse Michelena Sockett is careful to properly fit her personal protective equipment as she cares for a COVID-19 patient in the ICU at Windsor Regional Hospital. This January, hospitals across our region are dealing with a huge influx of COVID-19 patients. (Chris Ensing/CBC - image credit)

The number of patients with COVID-19 in Ontario's hospitals has more than doubled in a week, and here in southwest it's no different.

The Chatham-Kent Health Alliance (CKHA) has transferred three intensive care unit (ICU) patients to a London hospital on Tuesday — with patient consent — as COVID-19 cases push the hospital to its occupancy limit.

In a tweet Wednesday morning, CEO Lori Marshall, said 21 of the 22 critical care beds at the hospital were full. She said 12 of those patients have COVID-19, and 11 of them are not vaccinated. Four of them are on ventilators.

In total, there are 30 COVID-19 patients at the hospital as of Wednesday morning.

"We are at a crossroads in our community," 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."

London Health Sciences Centre said they are expecting another "five or fewer" patients from Chatham-Kent today.

"These transfers take place through the Ontario Critical Care COVID-19 Command Centre, which looks at a number of factors when determining when and if a patient will be transferred," said Sara Wilson, communications consultant with the hospital.

"As a result, it's difficult for us to give an accurate response as to whether we will be seeing more patients being transferred and when."All critical care beds are a provincial resource, and in times of challenge we ensure that our resources are available to those patients in need."

London Health Sciences Centre reported 63 patients with COVID-19, including 10 in critical care Wednesday.

The number of patients with the virus increased by four from the previous day.

End-of-life discussions with 'families in all age categories'

Sarnia-Lambton's Bluewater Health issued a dire warning Tuesday, with hospital leaders sending a letter to the public after the number of COVID-19 patients at the hospital more than quadrupled in the last two weeks.

The letter states that the ICU is seeing younger patients than usual, and most with severe COVID-19 are not vaccinated.

"We are having end-of-life discussions with families in all age categories — not just older ages," it says.

As of Wednesday, there are 31 suspected cases of COVID-19 at the hospital, with 27 of those cases confirmed through PCR testing. An official with the hospital tells CBC there could be as many as 40 COVID-19 patients, according to rapid test results, but not all have been confirmed through PCR testing.

"Initially, we had a few cases, and we thought, 'Well maybe it's just the tail end of Delta. It's winter time, people moving indoors, you know, et cetera,' but then in the middle of December, the numbers just took off, and our ER was calling and saying, 'We don't know what's going on here," said the hospital's chief of staff, Dr. Mike Haddad.

"We're seeing three, four, five, six, seven a day of COVID patients. What's going on?' So that's where we got concerned."

Haddad said six patients have died at Bluewater in the last two weeks.

Both hospitals in Chatham-Kent and Sarnia-Lambton are affected by staffing issues, as dozens are off with confirmed COVID-19 cases or isolating.

Meanwhile in Windsor-Essex, 45 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, according to the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit.

Jonathan Pinto/CBC
Jonathan Pinto/CBC

As of Tuesday, Windsor Regional Hospital had 38 in-patients with confirmed cases of COVID-19 — six of which are in the ICU.

According to the hospital, of the 38 patients, 22 are fully vaccinated, one is partially vaccinated and 15 people are unvaccinated.

On Monday, the hospital said 221 staff members were off of work, with 91 testing positive for COVID19.

More than 2,000 Ontarians with COVID-19 now in hospital

Across the province, the number of people in hospital with the illness topped 2,000 on Wednesday, as stricter public health measures took effect.

The Ministry of Health says there are 2,081 patients with COVID-19 in hospital, up from 726 at the same time last week — a 187 per cent jump.

Similarly, there are 288 patients being treated for COVID-related illnesses in intensive care units, up from 190 last Wednesday.

According to Critical Care Services Ontario, 42 more adults with COVID-19 were admitted to ICUs on Tuesday. A total of 124 adults were moved to ICUs in the last three days, the agency said.

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