Hamilton

Canadian Air Force members may be sent to help at Hamilton field hospital: province

The federal government is considering sending extra people — such as members of the Canadian Armed Forces, Canadian Red Cross and other groups — to help at field hospitals at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS).

Hamilton Health Sciences staff describe gruelling shifts with families dying from COVID-19

Ottawa is considering sending armed forces personnel to help at the Hamilton Health Sciences field hospital. (Talia Ricci/CBC)

The federal government is considering sending extra people — such as members of the Canadian Armed Forces, Canadian Red Cross and other groups — to help at field hospitals at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS).

Stephen Warner, a spokesperson for Ontario's Solicitor General's office, said on Tuesday that the province has asked the federal government find more people to help Ontario deal with the surge of patients filling intensive care units (ICUs).

And some of those armed forces resources could be coming to Hamilton. 

"We are exploring every potential measure to further build up Ontario's health-care workforce, including ongoing provincial initiatives to bolster the workforce and ensure our trained health-care professionals are deployed where they are needed most during this third wave," Warner said in an email.

Wendy Stewart, an HHS spokesperson, also said the recruitment effort for the Hamilton field hospital is "ongoing" and will include a blend of new and existing health-care workers. 

"We are working with regional partners to supporting staffing," she said in an email.

WATCH: Drone footage of Hamilton field hospital

Drone footage of the Hamilton Health Sciences field hospital

1 year ago
Duration 1:48
A drone flies over the Hamilton Health Sciences field hospital on Wellington Street North.

This comes as COVID-19 pushes Ontario hospitals beyond their limits.

As of Monday, there were 875 COVID-19 patients being treated in critical care. 

Critical Care Services Ontario, a government agency that maintains a tally of hospitalizations, said 59 more people were admitted to intensive care units Monday.

Of the patients in ICUs, 589 required a ventilator to breathe, down from 605 the day before, according to the health ministry.

And the overall number of hospitalizations climbed to 2,336, up from 2,271 the day before. 

Hamilton ICU capacity is 'severely stretched'

In Hamilton, 111 COVID-19 patients are at HHS and 44 people are in the ICU. St Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton is caring for 46 COVID-19 patients. 

Hospitals have been shuttering services and shuffling staff to try and find ways to make room for more local patients and others coming from the Greater Toronto Area. They also initiated ICU surge plans.

HHS said in media release on Tuesday ICU capacity is "severely stretched" and hospitals are under significant pressure.

WATCH: Frustrated Ontario doctors call for help for essential workers as ICUs fill up

Frustrated Ontario doctors call for help for essential workers as ICUs fill up

1 year ago
Duration 4:34
With many Ontario ICUs operating at or above full capacity, more doctors are sharing frustrations about the limitations of COVID-19 restrictions and the lack of support for essential workers.

It said the number of ICU beds has grown from 88 to 126, and has redeployed nearly 200 staff.

Hospitals have said that the leap in the number of ICU beds isn't as simple as adding beds. It requires staff from as many as 15 different departments.

'The public needs to save themselves'

Now, HHS health-care workers are speaking out in an effort to help people understand how much of a crisis the city is in.

"We are more than exhausted. We are no longer the frontline or the last line. The public needs to save themselves," said Cindi Neptune, an ICU nurse at Hamilton General Hospital.

"We are seeing multiple family members within a family die from COVID-19 because they feel their holiday and family gatherings are more important than their lives. We are not coping. We are showing up because we are nurses and that's what we do."

Dr. Bram Rochwerg, the ICU Juravinski Hospital site lead, described every day is "controlled chaos" with stressed out staff trying to avoid being overwhelmed.

"There's no way we would have gotten through this without each other. We know stay-at-home and other public health measures are hard on everyone, but from our perspective in the ICU, they are absolutely needed," Rochwerg said.

And Jodi Konior, a social worker at the hospital, said the infections are tearing families apart.

"Much of my job has become focused on supporting families of loved ones who are extremely sick or dying from COVID-19," Konior said.

"My days are long, busy, and emotionally exhausting. Please think of everyone working in the hospitals and these families when you're considering whether or not to follow public health guidelines."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bobby Hristova is a journalist with CBC Hamilton. He reports on all issues, but has a knack for stories that hold people accountable, stories that focus on social issues and investigative journalism. He previously worked for the National Post and CityNews in Toronto. You can contact him at bobby.hristova@cbc.ca.

With files from Lucas Powers

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