Hamilton

Hamilton health-care workers exhausted as COVID-19 strains hospitals: emergency chief

The chief of emergency services at Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) says he fears there will not be enough room for COVID-19 patients if the virus continues to uncontrollably spread in the next few weeks.

'As health-care workers we're exhausted, but we really need people's help now,' said Dr. Kuldeep Sidhu

Dr. Kuldeep Sidhu, the chief of emergency medicine at Hamilton Health Sciences, said health-care workers are exhausted as they care for patients during COVID-19's third wave. (Talia Ricci/CBC)

The chief of emergency medicine at Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) says he fears there will not be enough room for COVID-19 patients if the virus continues to uncontrollably spread in the next few weeks.

"The projections are expected to be beyond our current capabilities and at the highest level of ICU beds and resources, we may not be able to meet those needs," Dr. Kuldeep Sidhu said in an interview on Mar. 18.

"Last year during the pandemic we had about 400 and some ICU (intensive care unit) beds at peak. We're well over 700 right now, and we're adding ICU capacity weekly. We added 20 ICU beds last week and they're all full. Out of 106 beds, we have 90 per cent capacity filled already."

Sidhu is among a number of top Hamilton health officials who are raising alarm in the midst of the third wave.

HHS and St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton have both implemented surge plans while also shuffling around staff and shuttering services to accommodate more patients.

HHS is also building a field hospital set to be complete by the end of May. Sharon Pierson, HHS chief operating officer and executive vice-president of clinical operations, said the exterior is complete and how they're working on the interior.

WATCH: Drone footage of HHS field hospital

Drone footage of the Hamilton Health Sciences field hospital

CBC News Hamilton

2 months ago
1:47
A drone flies over the Hamilton Health Sciences field hospital on Wellington Street North. 1:47

"Unfortunately, we may not be through the worst of it and we may need to make further adjustments along with other hospitals … to free up the essential capacity and staff we need in the weeks ahead," Pierson said in a Thursday town hall meeting.

Sidhu said he is seeing people in their 50s and 60s who are relatively healthy end up in the hospital, in addition to whole families.

He also said many of the patients from the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and the Peel Region are South Asian.

164 COVID-19 patients from GTA

Pierson said 164 patients from GTA hospitals have been transferred into Hamilton and nearby regions, with 48 more expected to arrive at HHS hospitals.

Sidhu and Pierson both said the goal is to avoid having to choose which patients they must care for first.

Pierson added HHS has redeployed 200 staff and increased their Level 3 ICU capacity from 88 beds to 126 this week.

As of Monday, Hamilton public health reported 161 COVID-19 patients in local hospitals. Of those, roughly 113 were at HHS and 48 were in the intensive care unit according to Pierson's presentation at the town hall.

'We really need people's help now'

Sidhu encouraged everyone to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

"This stage of the third wave is quite real, all of the projections we feared last year are coming true this year, and I think as long as we stick together as a community and try to keep those individuals that are not ill, healthy, that's my recommendation," he said.

"As health-care workers we're exhausted, but we really need people's help now."

With files from Talia Ricci

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