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January 7, 2022

Update on the pandemic response – HHS is facing extraordinary challenges

Hamilton Health Sciences is undertaking a series of actions in light of the surge of cases and hospital admissions across Ontario and continued pressures on healthcare workers.

A surge in hospital admissions is putting enormous pressure on HHS teams across our sites. Combined with a steady increase in the number of staff and physicians who must self-isolate as a result of being exposed or testing positive for COVID, the situation is extremely concerning in the health sector and our hospital system.

Our emergency departments are also seeing non-COVID positive patients who are sicker, including patients who are exceptionally frail and medically complex.

The table below gives a clear indication of the growing burden of COVID since early December 2021.

 

Dec. 1, 2021 Dec 31, 2021 Jan. 7, 2022
In-patients who are COVID-positive Less than five 95 171
COVID-positive patients in ICU Less than five 11 22
Staff and physicians in self-isolation n/a 353 596

 

In addition, there are currently (on January 7, 2022), nine COVID outbreaks across our sites. This situation adds even more pressure on the management of patient flow and our operations.

HHS actions  ̶  ramp down of activity

We are ramping down clinical work that can be safely deferred, so that we can ensure we can keep providing urgent and emergent care and sustain essential regional programs. We are doing this in accordance with updated provincial direction.

The ramp down of activities across our sites includes:

  • All non-urgent/non-emergent surgeries and procedures
  • All non-urgent/non-emergent diagnostic imaging and other diagnostic testing
  • All non-urgent/non-emergent ambulatory care.

We understand the angst that postponements and cancellations cause our patients and their families. We appreciate your patience as we resort to these unfortunate but necessary measures.

HHS actions  ̶  redeployment update

Staff from many areas are now available for redeployment and will be essential in supporting urgent needs across HHS. So far, approximately 175 staff and physicians have been redeployed to support in-patients units/wards, Employee Health Services, the Central Scheduling Office and to Infection Prevention And Control (IPAC).

These measures are being taken in accordance with existing emergency orders from the Province. More information will be communicated in the coming days.

HHS actions  ̶  other measures

Additional steps are being put in place to ensure our ability to keep providing safe care and increase our capacity and patient flow across our sites. These includes:

  • Operating over 70 unfunded beds to meet demand.
  • Consolidating JHCC geriatric, musculoskeletal and oncology rehabilitation care, to help add 21 general internal medicine beds on M-wing which are fully occupied.
  • Designating 16 beds for acute care at the Regional Rehabilitation Centre.
  • Working with community and long-term care partners to advance and expedite discharges.
  • Maximizing occupancy at the Satellite Health Facility.
  • Adopting a modified approach to managing units in outbreaks to improve patient flow in accordance with Public Health and IPAC while ensuring patient and staff safety.
  • Physician groups have also worked to support one another with redeployment and clinical assistance for areas with the greatest pressures.

HHS actions  ̶  staffing

We are also taking action on the staffing concerns to support frontline teams. This includes:

  • Communicating updated staff guidance on testing, self-isolation and return to work from the regional Subject Matter Experts (SME) group and from our own Infection Prevention and Control experts.
  • Continued prioritization of PCR testing for staff and physicians to enable expedient return-to-work.

We will continue to provide regular updates about the impact of the current wave of the pandemic on HHS and its people. We are incredibly grateful to all those who have stepped forward in recent weeks to ensure we can rise to the challenges posed by these extraordinary times.