Four operating rooms have reopened at St. Joe's in Hamilton after a Wednesday flood scuttled surgeries and reduced emergency department service at the hospital's Charlton Campus.

The hospital is now conducting emergency and urgent surgeries, but the emergency department remains closed to ambulances and patients who cannot walk in under their own power.

Amid extreme cold temperatures, a pipe burst on Wednesday morning at the downtown health complex. Three floors of the hospital suffered water damage, resulting in the closure of 12 operating rooms.

Megan Bieksa, a spokeswoman for St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton, said she isn't certain when the remaining surgical suites will reopen. 

"That’s our top priority right now and we’re working really hard to remediate."

The flood and following cleanup, which put all surgeries at St. Joseph’s on hold and reduced the ER's operations, has had a ripple effect across the city’s health care networks.

Bieksa said the hospital's Charlton Campus conducts 30 to 40 surgeries on a normal weekday, with four or five of those procedures stemming from visits to the emergency department.


Hamilton General Hospital has seen an uptick in the number of ambulances that arrive at its emergency department since St. Joe's experienced a flood on Wednesday. (Cory Ruf/CBC)

That means as many as 100-plus surgeries have been cancelled or delayed at St. Joe’s since Wednesday.

In addition, ambulances that would otherwise go to St. Joe’s are being diverted to other hospitals, straining health care resources across the city. 

The closures have sparked hospitals with Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) to cancel some elective surgeries and deploy extra staff to deal with the influx of extra emergency patients.

On Friday, HHS said it had cancelled a total of 88 non-emergency surgeries at its Hamilton General and Juravinksi hospitals this week as a result of the flood at St. Joe’s.

Ambulance volumes

The incident has also led to higher-than-normal patient volumes in emergency departments near to the downtown core.

According to a statement from HHS spokeswoman Agnes Bongers, Hamilton General Hospital receives about 35 ambulances on a typical weekday, but has had nearly 60 roll in on both Wednesday and Thursday.

Around 30 ambulances arrive at Juravinski Hospital on a normal weekday, but the health care centre received around 50 on both Wednesday and Thursday — an increase of about 60 per cent.

In a Friday teleconference, Dr. Bill Krizmanich, the HHS’s chief of emergency services, told reporters that the extra ambulances have led to “an increase of high-acuity patients” — those whose condition requires urgent treatment — at Hamilton General and Juravinski hospitals.

'We are holding our own, but it’s going to be a busy weekend.' —Dr. Bill Krizmanich, Hamilton Health Sciences

In response, HHS brass have called in additional staff and asked on-duty nurses and physicians to work longer hours.

“In the meantime, we are holding our own, but it’s going to be a busy weekend,” Krizmanich said.

Crews at St. Joe’s have been working "tirelessly" since Wednesday to repair the hospital's operating rooms, said Bieksa.

The hospital doesn’t have an estimate on the cost of the damage, Bieksa said in a Saturday email.

“Our first priority is bringing our services back online for our patients.”