Unvaccinated COVID patients in Hamilton's ICUs leave families, doctors 'disappointed'

The majority of hospital patients with COVID-19 are unvaccinated. Doctors say their families are disappointed they didn't get a shot.

There are 362 active cases of the virus in Hamilton

Hamilton and Niagara doctors say the majority of patients in hospitals with COVID-19 didn't get vaccinated. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

When Dr. Craig Ainsworth talks to the families of COVID-19 patients in Hamilton intensive care units (ICU), he says many of them are "disappointed" because their loved ones had a chance to get vaccinated but didn't.

"[They're] motivated to encourage them to get vaccinated once they get off life support, God willing," Ainsworth, Hamilton General Hospital's cardiac care unit director and an ICU doctor, told CBC Hamilton on Monday.

"Everyone [hospitalized with COVID-19] in the first three waves was unvaccinated but didn't have a choice to be vaccinated because their time hadn't come up yet in terms of eligibility. This wave is completely different."

Ainsworth said he's also disappointed. He said every COVID-19 ICU patient in the past month and a half has been unvaccinated and there have been no fully vaccinated patients there since the fourth wave started.

This comes as people opposed to vaccine mandates and pandemic-related public health measures held numerous protests outside of hospitals across Canada on Monday.

Protesters linked arms outside of Queen's park for several minutes ahead of the planned demonstrations against COVID-19 measures at hospitals across the country on Monday. (Patrick Morrell/CBC)

Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger joined mayors from across the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area in issuing a statement strongly condemning protests outside of hospitals.

"We all want this pandemic to end. While everyone has the right to protest, it does not give license to harass hospital workers and obstruct access to care," he stated in a media release. "This abhorrent behaviour will not be tolerated."

Ainsworth said people who are avoiding vaccination are putting unnecessary pressure onto local hospitals, forcing them to cancel surgeries and elective procedures because of a lack of space and staff.

"We're happy to try and help them, it just puts us in a dilemma because there are a lot of other sick patients with non-COVID diseases who are getting [treatment] delayed," he said.

Ainsworth said the ICU at his hospital has nine to 10 patients on life support — all of them unvaccinated.

He said while some people have extenuating circumstances that make it harder to get vaccinated, the vast majority of people ending up in the hospital were avoiding getting inoculated, according to patients' families.

Niagara Health, the hospital network in the Niagara region, issued a statement on Monday saying it was bracing for another surge of patients. It said since Aug. 7, the hospital network cared for 32 patients with COVID-19 of which 26 were unvaccinated.

"We are dealing with a virus that is well-managed with a vaccine. I strongly urge those who are unvaccinated to do so as soon as possible," said Dr. Johan Viljoen, Niagara Health chief of staff and executive vice president of medical affairs.

"Vaccination is the key to getting out of this pandemic, and there are many options available throughout the Niagara community."

Hamilton's seven-day average hits 47 cases

Hamilton reported 95 new cases of COVID-19 and one more on Monday, following the weekend.

The city has seen 23,842 cases so far during the pandemic and 409 fatalities. Eight outbreaks are ongoing.

There are 362 active cases of the virus, while 94 per cent are resolved.

The seven-day average for new cases is 47.

Roughly 6.8 per cent of people in Hamilton who contracted the virus have been hospitalized, according to data on the city's website.

Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) is caring for 37 people with COVID-19, including 15 people in the ICU.

Six HHS staff members are currently confirmed to have the virus, while 51 are self-isolating.

There are 13 patients at St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton who have tested positive for COVID-19, seven of whom are in the ICU. The hospital says four staff members have the virus.

In the province, Ontario reported 600 new cases on Monday, 475 of whom were people who were either not fully vaccinated or whose vaccination status was not known.

Six more deaths were added to Ontario's count, increasing the official toll to 9,617.

The province reports more than 84 per cent of people eligible for their shots have received one dose and more than 78 per cent have received both. 

Six Nations reports first COVID-related death since April 

Six Nations of the Grand River moved to the orange level of its alert system on Monday amid a sharp rise in cases and a 12th death.

It's the first COVID-related death reported in the territory since April 29.

"Six Nations Elected Council is keeping in their thoughts all those who have lost a loved one to this virus," read a press release.

There were 41 active cases in Six Nations as of Saturday, 177 people were in self-isolation and one person was hospitalized.

The number of cases per 100,000 works out to more than 281 for Six Nations, compared to 28 and 49 per 100,000 for Brant County and Hamilton, respectively, according to the tracking tool on its website.

The First Nation has tallied 609 positive cases. Of those, 555 are resolved. Twelve people who had the virus have died.


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