Number of COVID patients at Sarnia-Lambton's Bluewater Health hospital quadruples in 2 weeks

Sarnia-Lambton's Bluewater Health hospital is calling on residents of the community to follow pandemic guidelines as the number of COVID-positive patients in the hospital rises.

Hospital having 'end of life discussions with families in all age categories'

Sarnia-Lambton's Bluewater Health hospital is urging the community to follow pandemic guidelines after a rise in COVID-positive patients in recent weeks. (Submitted by Bluewater Health)

Sarnia-Lambton's Bluewater Health hospital is calling on residents of the community to follow pandemic guidelines as the number of COVID-positive patients in the hospital rises.

"We were very fortunate for about six months, between June and early December, where we basically had no cases of COVID at the hospital," Bluewater chief of staff Dr. Mike Haddad told CBC News on Tuesday. "Then, in early December, we started noticing an increase in cases."

"Then, in the middle of December, the numbers just took off, and our ER was calling and saying 'we don't know what's going on here. We're seeing three, four, five, six, seven a day of COVID patients, what's going on?' So that's where we got concerned."

Haddad, along with Bluewater president and CEO Mike Lapaine, were the authors of a letter to the community that was released earlier Tuesday.

"Over the past two weeks we have more than quadrupled the number of COVID-positive patients in hospital (from 7 to 31) and more than half of our ICU is occupied by critically-ill patients with COVID pneumonia," the letter states.

"We had to reopen a COVID-dedicated medical unit and have shut down all surgeries except the most urgent to redeploy staff to COVID-related care areas."

In addition, the letter states the hospital currently has "almost five times the usual number of staff on sick leave," and many staff members are working double shifts and cancelling vacations due to the workload.

In total, more than 100 Bluewater staff are currently off, either sick or isolating, Haddad said.

As of Tuesday, there were 31 COVID patients admitted to Bluewater. The previous high for the hospital was a day in April 2020, when there were 32 COVID patients admitted.

"I have a feeling, by [Wednesday], we're going to go beyond the previous peak," Haddad said. "It's not sustainable. We can't have all of our ICU being overtaken by one disease, and we've already had to cancel all of our non-urgent, elective procedures."

It's possible, Haddad said, that some patients may be transferred to other regional hospitals if the case counts don't drop.

Another concern, the letter states, is that the ICU is seeing younger patients than usual, and most with severe COVID-19 are not vaccinated.

"We are having end-of-life discussions with families in all age categories — not just older ages," the letter states.

Haddad said six patients have died at Bluewater in the last two weeks.

Chief of staff Mike Haddad says Bluewater Health in Sarnia may need to transfer some patients to other regional hospitals due to a high number of patients with COVID-19. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

"We thought maybe we should just re-engage the community again, to advise, and entice, and encourage whoever's not vaccinated yet to just go out there and get vaccinated," Haddad said of the decision to send the letter. "Because, really, it's our best defence, regardless of the variant."

The letter urges Sarnia-Lambton residents to follow pandemic guidelines: stay at home, get vaccinated or boosted, and wear a mask in public indoor areas.

"Above all, please be kind to one another as we are truly in this together," the letter states. "Healthcare delays affect all of us with no exceptions."


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