Kitchener-Waterloo

Lockdown will help region's hospitals that are surpassing capacity, St. Mary's president says

A lockdown will help curb the spread of COVID-19 and will ease the growing burden on hospitals in Waterloo region, the president of St. Mary's General says.

Officials say COVID-19 cases will rise and that may impact services

Medical staff are shown here in an intensive care unit at North York General Hospital in Toronto. Hospitals in Waterloo region are surpassing capacity some days as local COVID-19 cases surge in the community, leading to some people having to be hospitalized, officials say. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

The provincial lockdown measures set to take effect on Saturday will help the region's hospitals as they face surging demand from patients, including those with COVID-19.

The move to a lockdown will help curb the spread of the virus, which in turn will mean fewer people needing to be hospitalized, said Lee Fairclough, president of St. Mary's General Hospital.

"Our ICU crews are starting to see an increased occupancy. Some hospitals are fluctuating up over 100 per cent [capacity] on some days," she said. "The current state in our hospitals is really to get prepared for more rise that we may start to see, which includes some reduction in service."

Last week, Cambridge Memorial Hospital announced it was putting elective surgeries on hold because of rising COVID-19 cases. Grand River Hospital and St. Mary's General both temporarily suspended elective surgeries earlier in the month for similar reasons.

Fairclough said they know the impact from the lockdown won't be felt for several weeks, but it should help reduce case numbers.

"If we can have a lockdown similar to what we had in the spring, we know for sure that that flattened the curve," she said. "Things were more manageable from the health system perspective."

'Our frontline workers are maxed out'

During an interview on Monday, regional chair Karen Redman said she felt a lockdown was necessary, in part, to ease the stress being felt by health-care workers.

"This isn't just about the numbers in our ICU unit and the number of COVID cases. It's really about people," she said.

"It's about my neighbour that is almost 80 and waiting for a high-risk heart surgery. It's the emergency doctor that lives on my street who has to come home to three little kids and his wife after every shift worrying if he's got COVID."

She added, "our frontline workers are maxed out."

Fairclough said she's heard from staff who are tired from working long hours, from stress and from wearing extra personal protective equipment since March.

"Health-care workers are amazing in their ability to find ways to still bring through that compassion for patients. But really it is quite exhausting," she said.

She noted even the work environment – the camaraderie many people feel with co-workers – has also changed in the last year.

Social interactions causing spread

Fairclough said she knows people in the community are tired, too.

"For those that have been doing everything they're supposed to do, I say thank you and please continue doing it," she said.

But there are people who haven't been following public health guidance – whether on purpose or by mistake. The region's medical officer of health, Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, has said previously social interactions and people getting too close to others in employee-only areas of workplaces has contributed to the spread of the virus in the region.

The lockdown, Fairclough said, "will make it more clear what we all need to be doing" to stop the spread of COVID-19.

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