Windsor Regional Hospital to transfer patients to Chatham, Sarnia amid COVID-19 surge

Windsor Regional Hospital  to facilities elsewhere in Southwestern Ontario due to a lack of beds amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Hospital CEO says next few months will be 'hell'

Windsor Regional Hospital is shown in a file photo. (Tom Addison/CBC)

Windsor Regional Hospital plans to send patients to facilities elsewhere in southwestern Ontario due to a lack of beds amid the COVID-19 crisis.

The hospital said it will begin to send patients to Sarnia and Chatham-Kent in order to create capacity.

Officials said in a statement they anticipate it could be as many as 20 patients this week.

The hospital, along with others in the region, has been warning that the dramatic rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are threatening capacity within the system.

Erie Shores Healthcare in Leamington started transferring patients to Chatham and Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare late last month.

Windsor Regional Hospital treats patients throughout the region who are facing the most serious situations, and needs to maintain the physical capacity to do so, said CEO David Musyj.

"Windsor Regional Hospital is a regional hospital taking care of, quote, the sickest of the sick, for all the way from London down," he said.

The hospital has already cancelled non-urgent surgeries in an effort to free up beds.

Currently, there are 74 COVID-19-positive patients at WRH, which the hospital pointed out is much higher than the peak of 27 seen in the first wave of the pandemic.

Further, 15 to 20 of those patients require critical care.

Julia Oosterman, chief of communications and public affairs for Bluewater Health in Sarnia, says it has been receiving patients throughout the pandemic and will continue to support Windsor as it is in "crisis." 

She said it has accepted patients from Leamington in the last few weeks and has now started taking patients from Windsor Regional. 

"We're nowhere near what some of our partners are facing, especially our partners at Windsor Regional," adding that she's unsure how many total patients it will receive but estimates it could be anywhere between five and six a day for the next few days. 

"It would be unreasonable to expect that there would be no impact, there absolutely is an impact, we already have our ICU at 100 per cent capacity," she said, adding that the hospital might alter its services in the coming days. 

Chief of communications and public affairs at Bluewater Health in Sarnia, Julia Oosterman, says the hospital is trying to manage helping other regions while ensuring its own systems don't get overwhelmed. (Colin Cote-Paulette/Radio-Canada)

So far, Bluewater Health only has six COVID-19 positive inpatients, she said. 

Yet, Oosterman added that Sarnia-Lambton is nowhere near being in the clear and continues to see a steady rise in cases, meaning its health care system is also at risk of being overwhelmed. 

"We are not in crisis at this point, but we are on the precipice," she said. 

Active cases approaching 2,500

There are just under 2,500 active COVID-19 cases in Windsor-Essex.

Based on the current numbers, plus the effects of Christmas and New Year's, Musyj expects to see even more patients.

At the same time as it grapples with the volume of COVID-19 cases, the hospital is administering the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine. It received a second shipment on Tuesday that will provide enough doses to vaccinate 1,500 people with two doses.

The vaccine has created excitement among staff and the community, Musyj said.

"We have to grab on to that ... because the next couple of months are literally going to be hell," he said.

Lack of private rooms 

Karen Riddell, WRH chief nursing executive, said the hospital hopes to keep patient transfers to other facilities to a minimum but the hospital needs to prioritize patient safety and care.

The hospital says isolation requirements for COVID-19 patients pose a challenge because of the lack of private rooms at both facilities.

"Our aging infrastructure cannot accommodate safe, quality care for all of our patients given the recent surge in COVID-19 patients requiring admission to hospital and requiring isolation protocols," Riddell said in a statement.


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