With some hospitals in Ontario at, or already over-capacity, the province has been working to create capacity to meet the needs of patients. Where staff is available, most hospitals are increasing bed numbers and for those hospitals already at capacity, they are attempting to free up capacity by moving patients to other hospitals.
On Jan. 12, Grey Bruce Health Services, Hanover & District Hospital and South Bruce Grey Health Centre released a statement confirming its support of a system to respond to capacity challenges.
“It is critical that the hospital system in Ontario functions as one seamless system during the pandemic to ensure that beds and emergency care are available for not only COVID+ patients, but also for patients presenting to hospital with heart attacks, stroke, respiratory, gastrointestinal, and many other issues,” said Michael Barrett, South Bruce Grey Health Centre president and CEO.
The province says that based on forecast models, the provincial hospital system will be facing significant capacity challenges over the coming weeks, due to an increasing prevalence of COVID-19. The forecast shows that the number of both medicine and critical care beds required in January and February may exceed the bed capacity of all hospitals across the province.
“Within SBGHC’s four hospital sites, five additional beds have been opened in Walkerton, and we are preparing to open additional beds in Durham and possibly Kincardine,” said Dr. Lisa Roth, South Bruce Grey Health Centre chief of staff. “We are currently working with London Health Sciences Centre and other regional hospitals to accept lower acuity patients to open up beds in those centres for more acutely ill patients.”
In Grey Bruce, the prevalence of COVID-19 remains relatively low when compared to other parts of the province and even as the capacity of the three hospital corporations in Grey Bruce nears capacity, the hospitals will be asked to play an active role in meeting the demand of patients across the province.
This means that all hospitals must be ready to accept patient transfers when directed by their regional or provincial COVID-19 response structure. It also means that hospitals may have to reduce or stop non-urgent surgeries and other procedures to ensure there are enough beds and capacity to care for those patients requiring hospital care.
Every hospital bed is a provincial resource, and the Grey Bruce hospitals fully support a single, seamless provincial hospital system that will accept patients from other hospitals, share resources and prioritize services so all hospitals can continue to provide safe, effective care to both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients.
The movement of patients between hospitals is not new. However, the amount of movement between sites has the potential to be much larger than normal in the coming weeks.
For Grey Bruce residents requiring hospital care, it means that they may be admitted to a hospital that is not in their home community, and when transferred back from a larger hospital to continue recovery, depending on capacity, they may be transferred to another hospital site that is not necessarily a home hospital site. It also means that patients from outside of Grey Bruce may be transferred into this region for hospital care.
The release went on to say that it is understood patients and their families want to be cared for close to home, in hospitals they are familiar with and that they have supported, and every effort will be taken to ensure that happens. However, during these challenging times, a patient may be admitted to a hospital away from their home community.
“We have a long history of working together with our healthcare partners in Grey Bruce and beyond, and during this pandemic, together we will do what is needed for local residents, and for the system of care that this province depends on,” said Gary Sims, president and CEO of Grey Bruce Health Services. “GBHS has added 28 additional beds to prepare for a surge in COVID-19 and non COVID-19 patients. These beds are in our medical/surgical department, our ICU, and for those patients waiting in hospital to transition to another level of care. We also have a field hospital ready to be opened should the system pressures overwhelm hospital capacity.”