Hamilton

36 people in ICU as COVID-19 hospitalizations in Hamilton continue to climb

Thirty-six people are currently in the intensive care unit of Hamilton hospitals as the number of people admitted with COVID-19 continues to climb.

Number of HHS patients with confirmed COVID-19 stands at 151, while 79 people are admitted to St. Joe’s

Hamilton Public Health Services (HPHS) says there are 25 patients with COVID-19 in the ICU at at Hamilton Health Sciences, two more than the previous days. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Thirty-six people are currently in the intensive care unit of Hamilton hospitals as the number of people admitted with COVID-19 continues to climb.

Hamilton Public Health Services (HPHS) said there are 25 patients with COVID-19 in the ICU at Hamilton Health Sciences, two more than the previous days.

At St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton there are 11 patients with COVID-19 in the ICU, up from six on Tuesday.

The number of HHS patients with confirmed COVID-19 stands at 151, while 79 people are admitted to St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton.

This particular variant has really been a game changer in terms of hospital operations ... we are seeing challenges both with increasing numbers of patients and staff affected by the virus.- Rob MacIsaac, CEO Hamilton Health Sciences

During a news conference on Tuesday both Rob MacIsaac, chief executive officer at Hamilton Health Sciences and Melissa Farrell, president of St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton, said the city's hospital system is "under strain."

"There's no doubt this is a system that is under stress and we are very concerned about where things are headed," MacIsaac said.

"This particular variant has really been a game changer in terms of hospital operations ... we are seeing challenges both with increasing numbers of patients and staff affected by the virus."

MacIsaac said HHS is "operating over capacity," adding that "this time of year can be very challenging for hospitals, even without a pandemic, and this year is no exception. So, we are seeing lots of illness in the community quite apart from COVID, which is adding to the challenge."

He said long term care and retirement homes are also very much under strain, and this has an impact on the entire system, "because if long term care and retirement homes are under strain, they have a limited ability to accept patients from hospitals, so everything starts to get back up." 

Hamilton recorded at least 519 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday but health officials have warned this number is not an accurate reflection of the number of new infections. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Meanwhile, Farrell said the increasing numbers is taking a toll on health-care workers.

"We are working to decipher between those whose primary reason for admission is COVID versus those who are admitted for other reasons, but also have COVID," Farrell said.

"But for our health-care workers, it means the same thing. It requires an enhanced level of personal protective equipment. It requires the same, and the requirements around care remain the same."

A total of 417 employees of HHS are currently self-isolating, while the number at St. Joe's is 266.

Situation 'very concerning'

Hamilton recorded at least 519 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday but health officials have warned this number is not an accurate reflection of the number of new infections. The seven-day average currently sits at 705.

Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, medical officer of health, said even though the numbers are underestimated, the situation in Hamilton and across Ontario with regards to COVID-19 is "very concerning."

"Our COVID-19 case numbers are very much underestimated," Richardson said during Tuesday's news conference.

"With the rapid spread of Omicron and our reduced access to testing we are, of course, just reporting on the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the number of cases that are here in Hamilton."

Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, medical officer of health, says even though the numbers are underestimated, the situation in Hamilton and across Ontario with regards to COVID-19 is 'very concerning.' (CBC)

Richardson said the city will now be "predominantly focusing on the key health indicators that we're tracking at this point in the pandemic, which of course are hospitalizations and ICU admissions."

The city will also be reporting of absenteeism in schools, she said.

57 active outbreaks

The number of COVID-19 outbreaks in Hamilton stands at 57. An outbreak at the Wellington Nursing Home has 40 cases.

There are nine other outbreaks with 10 cases or more. These are:

  • HHS Juravinski Hospital, Unit E3: 29 cases.

  • Hamilton General Hospital's 8S Medicine Unit: 27 cases.

  • Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre: 18 cases.

  • St. Joseph's Hospital Mary Grace Wing: 16 cases.

  • Extendicare Hamilton: 15 cases.

  • Amica Stoney Creek Retirement Home: 14 cases.

  • HHS Satellite Health Facility, 150 King St. E.: 14 cases.

  • St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton Clinical Teaching Unit West: 11 cases.

  • HHS St. Peter's Hospital, Unit 4E: 10 cases.

Currently, HPHS is only reporting COVID-19 outbreaks in health settings.

Temporary closure of Fort Erie Urgent Care Centre

Niagara Health has announced it is temporarily closing the Urgent Care Centre at Fort Erie effective Thursday, Jan. 6, at 11 p.m.

The health unit said the closure is necessary in order to redeploy emergency-trained physicians and nurses to emergency departments (ED) where they are most needed.

"Temporarily closing the Fort Erie Urgent Care Centre was a decision that was not taken lightly," chair of the Niagara Health Board of Directors Bunny Alexander said. 

"The Board of Directors and senior leadership agreed that we need to take this step to address staffing shortages and maintain essential services for the high volumes of patients in our community needing emergency care."

Other hospitals throughout the province have taken similar measures throughout the pandemic, Niagara Health said.

The health unit said it is currently caring for 104 patients who are positive with COVID-19 and managing five outbreaks at its Niagara Falls and St. Catharines sites. The Extended Care Unit at the Welland Site is also in outbreak and following long-term care guidelines.

There are currently 354 staff members in self-isolation, and since Dec. 21, 146 of staff have tested positive for COVID-19, Niagara Health said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Desmond Brown

Web Writer / Editor

Desmond writes regularly for CBC Hamilton and Toronto. Before joining CBC News in 2017, he worked with news agencies including AP and IPS. He reported for AP from Grenada, Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago; and for IPS from Paris, Poland, Turkey and the U.S., to name a few. Desmond has a particular interest in social justice issues and human interest stories. Drop him a line at: desmond.brown@cbc.ca.

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