St. Thomas, Ont., hospital overwhelmed with unvaccinated COVID-19 patients
STEGH has 12 patients admitted with COVID-19, six of those patients are in the ICU
St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital (STEGH) is at full capacity with a record number of COVID-19 patients.
The hospital is struggling to keep up with a surge of patients and had to transfer two critically ill patients to the London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) on the weekend.
The hospital has admitted twelve COVID patients, all of whom are unvaccinated. Half of these patients are in the intensive care unit (ICU) and require a level three bed, which is the highest level of care offered in the ICU.
"We are at full capacity and our emergency department continues to see high volumes [of patients]. As well, we've been seeing, some days, as high as 200 patients a day," Karen Davies, the President of STEGH told CBC News.
The hospital has about 60 beds available for inpatients, but is operating at 83 beds, all of which are full.
A high case load of unvaccinated patients
According to Southwestern Public Health, there have been 66 new cases of COVID-19 reported in the area since Friday, on top of 159 cases that are ongoing.
The majority of cases in the county are in the township of Aylmer, which has 38 active cases. The town also has the lowest vaccination rate in the province.
"We know that we have a high percentage of unvaccinated people around the Aylmer and Bayham areas, and I know that our Southwestern Public Health lead is working hard to move those vaccination numbers up," said Davies.
She added that the patients with COVID are very sick, require a lot of resources and often need one-on-one care from hospital staff.
At the start of the pandemic, STEGH added extra beds in anticipation that patient volumes would increase.
Difficult patient flow
Davies said that her hospital is taking in as many people as it can.
"We are a community hospital, we do not turn anyone away, we would accommodate patients and stabilize them until we can seek help from a partner hospital."
She explained that similar to the rest of the country, the hospital is also dealing with a shortage of human resources but despite that, her team is fully staffed.
"It's tight across the entire southwest region, which makes hospital patient flow difficult in general," Davies said. "We need to care for the people who present to our door, but we physically cannot add anymore beds to the building."
At the Middlesex-London Health Unit's COVID briefing on Monday, the Executive Vice President of LHSC, Carol Young-Ritchie said that her hospital is prepared to take in more patients, if necessary.
"Critical care beds are a resource and we want to make sure everybody has opportunity to access those."
Davies said this is a situation which continues to evolve with people whose conditions are constantly changing every each hour. She expects that the number of COVID patients at STEGH will increase in the coming days.