Have. hospitals face staffing issues as COVID-19 cases continue to rise
TORONTO – Ontario hospitals are taking the brunt of the growing number of COVID-19 cases as the virus spreads across the province at record speed and infects high numbers of patients and healthcare workers.
The situation has become so serious that some hospital networks are reporting that hundreds of their staff have tested positive for the virus, are symptomatic or are isolated after exposure.
Kevin Smith, president and CEO of the University Health Network of Toronto, said these factors combined have resulted in at least 100 staff absences per day, as the highly transmissible variant of Omicron spikes the number of cases at unprecedented levels across the province.
“There aren’t any healthcare workers growing on the trees, so it’s a very, very limited supply and they’re in high demand everywhere,” Smith said in a telephone interview.
The number of employees unable to work at UHN’s five facilities in recent weeks, including Toronto General, Toronto Western and Princess Margaret Hospitals, is higher than facilities experienced in previous waves of the virus .
The high number of unavailable staff comes as Smith noticed fewer people entering hospital critically ill from the virus. This despite the fact that Public Health Ontario reported 16,714 new infections on Sunday and a record 18,445 cases on Saturday, noting that both figures are considered underestimates.
The number of active cases in the province has now passed the 100,000 mark.
The Ontario Hospital Association tweeted on Sunday that there were 218 adult patients with serious illnesses related to COVID-19 in intensive care units, including 112 on ventilators. The numbers bring the seven-day average of patients with serious illnesses related to COVID-19 in intensive care units to 195.
While Smith said staff are handling current volumes well, he is concerned about developments.
“I am obviously concerned that as we engage people in increasingly greater social interactions, including in schools and other environments, there is a risk of further and significant spread,” he said. -he declares.
“Our hope is that populations like these do not need to be hospitalized, but we need to prepare for the fact that they will because in other countries we are seeing child admissions increasing.”
To prepare, Smith is urging Health Canada to immediately approve Paxlovid, Pfizer’s COVID-19 antiviral pills, for emergency use.
It also plans to redeploy staff to areas most in need and remove doctors and nurses from hospitals from vaccination clinics, where they can be replaced by other regulated healthcare workers.
West of Toronto, similar measures are being considered at Hamilton Health Sciences, which operates Hamilton General Hospital.
Earlier in the week, the organization’s president, Rob MacIsaac, asked staff on vacation, part-time and casual to work overtime in exchange for a bonus until January 5.
It made the appeal at the start of the new year with at least 411 of its employees isolated at home and numerous outbreaks at its hospital sites.
“Unfortunately, the Omicron variant took us back several steps,” he said in a press release. “As a result, we are once again facing immense pressures regarding the occupancy and staffing of hospitals.”
Its hospitals were seeing an increase in the number of patients testing positive for COVID-19. Many have been admitted due to medical conditions unrelated to the virus, he said.
More than 100 inpatients in his hospitals tested positive for COVID-19 as of December 31 and as of December 13 were in intensive care units.
Emergency department volumes simultaneously exceeded pre-pandemic volumes and saw an increase in the number of patients arriving daily to hospitals by ambulance.
In addition to asking healthcare workers to take shifts and overtime, he said his organization would look to “extraordinary measures” like reducing “procedural and scheduled care” from Jan. 4 to divert resources to areas of “greatest need”.
He also said he would soon share more information on plans to recall asymptomatic staff with a negative rapid antigen test, who are currently in home isolation, as well as efforts to deploy workers to outpatient areas. to support inpatient care.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on January 2, 2022.