Ottawa

Family doctor concerned about COVID-19 surge over the holidays

The Ontario Hospital Association held an emergency board meeting Wednesday night after a memo was circulated to hospitals ordering them to brace for a spike in COVID-19 patients. 

Family doctors in Ottawa are still playing catch-up on procedures from the beginning of the pandemic

There's concern a surge of COVID-19 cases in Ottawa over the holidays could lead to further backlog of procedures at doctors' offices in the city. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Family doctors in Ottawa are still playing catch-up on procedures and there's concern of a further backlog if COVID-19 cases rise over the holidays. 

Alykhan Abdulla, a family doctor in Ottawa, said his practice is 50 per cent behind where it would be normally this time of year in terms of providing procedures like pap smears and mammograms, and he's worried it could fall back to early pandemic levels.

"All the gains that we did by working extra hours, by seeing people virtually or in office, all those gains will be lost," Abdulla said, adding he believes the city will see an increase in cases over the next few weeks. 

If that happens, his office and others around the city will be dealing with an influx of patients with respiratory illnesses in order to support overwhelmed hospitals and emergency rooms. 

Alykhan Abdulla, a family physician in Ottawa, says he thinks there will be an increase in cases over the next few weeks. (Tia Photography)

The Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) held an emergency board meeting Wednesday night after a memo was circulated to hospitals, ordering them to brace for a spike in COVID-19 patients. 

For hospitals in the province's grey lockdown and red control zones, that means clearing up to 15 per cent of their beds for COVID-19 patients. Hospitals in the rest of the province, like Ottawa, are being told to prepare their facilities in case they are moved into a red zone.

In a statement, the OHA said it held the meeting to discuss "the urgent situation hospitals face," and it established recommendations to communicate to the Ontario government.

A spokesperson for The Ottawa Hospital said in an email the hospital didn't attend the meeting and hasn't made any changes to its surge plan outside normal plans for this time of year and the COVID-19 contingency plans that are already in place. Montfort Hospital is also not changing its operations at this time.

ICU doctor says he's not worried

Kwadwo Kyeremanteng, an ICU and palliative care physician with The Ottawa Hospital, said his unit is looking pretty good right now and he's not worried about Ottawa's situation at the moment. 

"My theme throughout the pandemic has always been prepare for the worst, but hope for the best. And that's what we're doing," he said.

Dr. Kwadwo Kyeremanteng, an ICU doctor a The Ottawa Hospital, said his unit is looking pretty good right now. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

Kyeremanteng said surge plans have been in place since March, which include expanding the ICU into post-operative units and using surgical nurses and doctors from other areas in the hospital to help with care. He also mentioned the Civic campus has already set up a temporary area with 40 extra beds. 

"But I'll reinforce that we're far from that right now, at least locally, I think because we've been doing so well," he said. 

Kyeremanteng acknowledged there could be concern around a surge in cases because of people gathering over the holidays but said he's optimistic Ottawans will continue to keep cases low. 

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