CEO update: Hospitals are facing extraordinary challenges
As we close out 2021, Ontario’s hospitals are in a position that many of us couldn’t have predicted just months ago, as COVID-19 vaccines rolled out and case counts began to subside.
Unfortunately, the omicron variant has set us back several steps. Consequently, we are once again facing immense pressures around hospital occupancy and staffing.
Currently, the following factors are impacting our ability to operate smoothly at Hamilton Health Sciences:
- Widespread transmission of omicron in our community, which has sent hundreds of hospital workers in to self-isolation, with more than 400 staff in isolation at home (as of Dec. 31).
- An increase in patients in our hospitals who are COVID positive, many of whom were admitted due to medical conditions other than COVID. Currently more than 100 inpatients at HHS are COVID positive. Thirteen of those patients are in the intensive care unit.
- Numerous outbreaks across our sites, which impact our ability to admit new patients as they come through our emergency departments. We are taking all measures to continue to meet the demand for emergency and regional care.
- Increased acuity of non-COVID patients, including patients who are exceptionally frail and medically complex.
- The holiday season, meaning more staff are on holiday schedules and more seasonal illnesses are circulating, contributing to sick calls.
- Emergency department volumes that, at times, exceed pre-pandemic volumes and an increase in the number of patients arriving to us by ambulance on a daily basis.
We’re implementing extraordinary measures
In light of these compounding challenges, we are prepared to take extraordinary measures in the coming days to ensure we can continue to deliver care where it is needed the most. These measures include:
- A ramp down of procedural and scheduled care beginning Jan. 4, in alignment with direction from Ontario Health. This will allow us to divert resourcing, including health human resources, to areas of greatest need. We will continue to provide time-sensitive care and surgical activity in our cancer and pediatric programs will proceed as normal
- An appeal to staff who are on vacation, or who have part-time or casual schedules to pick up extra hours.
- Premium payments above and beyond collective agreement and policy requirements will be paid to any staff who work unscheduled hours between the CEO’s appeal issued yesterday evening (Dec. 30) until the end of the night shift commencing Jan. 4 and concluding the morning of Jan. 5.
- Call-back of asymptomatic staff with a negative rapid antigen test (RAT) who are currently isolating at home. More to come on this shortly.
- Deployment of staff from our ambulatory areas to support inpatient care. More information about this will be shared soon.
- Continued prioritization of PCR testing for staff and physicians to enable expedient return-to-work, with additional enhancements to the testing process underway.
I am incredibly grateful to those who have stepped forward in the last 24 hours to offer extra time and support, and to those who are already putting in extended hours to care for our patients.
We will continue to provide updates as the situation evolves.
Rob MacIsaac, President & CEO