Surgeries at Hamilton's St. Joe's still on hold Friday after flood

Surgeries at St. Joseph’s Hospital’s remain on hold Friday, two days after water from a burst pipe flooded three floors of the healthcare complex.

Hospital's ER is open to walk-in patients only

The surgical suite at St. Joe's hospital in downtown Hamilton suffered serious flooding on Thursday morning, forcing its ER to close and putting other local hospitals under pressure. (Terry Asma/CBC)

Surgeries at St. Joseph’s Hospital remain on hold Friday, two days after water from a burst pipe flooded three floors of the health care complex.

The flood closed 12 of the downtown hospital’s surgical suites and temporarily shuttered its emergency room.

The ER reopened on Thursday to patients who can walk in under their own power, but ambulances are being diverted to other hospitals. 

Some surgeries are expected to resume “early next week,” said hospital spokeswoman Megan Bieksa.

"We have two priorities for the OR: emergency surgery and cancer surgery," she said. 

Bieksa said on Friday afternoon she wasn't certain of when other non-emergency surgeries will resume.

The ER will reopen to ambulances and other non-walk-in patients once the surgical suites are operational, she said.

"By offering emergency surgery, that would also reinstate our capacity to received ambulances." 

A construction worker cleans up flood damage at St. Joe's hospital in the diagnostic imaging unit on Thursday. The Hamilton hospital has been forced to cancel all surgeries at its Charlton Street building after a major Wednesday flood. (John Rieti/CBC)

On average, St. Joe’s gets between 40 and 45 ambulances a day, Dr. David Higgins, president of St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton, told reporters on Thursday.

Some 80 patients still showed up at St. Joe’s ER department during the closure before staff assessed them and sent them to other hospitals, he said. 

Higgins said he hopes running his emergency department at a somewhat reduced capacity will be “some relief for the city.”

Paramedics have been taking seriously ill patients to Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) emergency rooms while St. Joe’s is offline. Cmdr. Ian Wright, of the Hamilton Paramedic Service, said the city's EMS crews have dealt with the shutdown without issue so far. 

"Hospitals have stepped up for us," Wright said, adding he believes hospitals have brought in extra staff to help unload ambulances faster.

Deep freeze

Early January's deep freeze tested the winter-worthiness of infrastructure across the city.

On Tuesday, when temperatures in Hamilton fell as low -24 C, a water main exploded in the area of Stone Church Road East and Upper Wellington, spurring traffic jams and temporarily robbing dozens of homes of running water.

A burst pipe also scuttled treatments at the Juravinski Cancer Centre on Wednesday. The flood damaged the hospital’s chemotherapy suite and the pharmacy that serves it.

Most radiation and chemotherapy treatments were cancelled on Wednesday, but normal levels of service resumed on Thursday.

Alternate ERs

With files from John Rieti


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