Windsor-Essex hospitals to pause non-urgent, elective surgeries and diagnostic scans
Hospitals fulfilling order by province ahead of anticipated COVID-19 patient surge
Windsor Regional Hospital and Erie Shores Healthcare are pausing non-urgent services due to an anticipated rise in COVID-19 patients and ICU admissions across Ontario.
The Ontario government's health agency sent a memo to hospitals Thursday night telling them to "ramp down" non-urgent elective and scheduled care, procedures and ambulatory clinics starting April 12, except for those in Northern Ontario. Pediatric specialty hospitals are excluded from the order.
This comes after provincial COVID-19 modelling from Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table predicts that by the end of the month, 2,800 people will require hospitalization and 774 will need intensive care, according to a news release from Windsor Regional Hospital.
Ontario has not ordered such an across-the-board postponement of non-emergency surgeries since the first wave of the pandemic hit the province in March 2020.
This will impact non-urgent, elective surgeries and diagnostic scans, but patients will be contacted in advance if their scheduled appointments will be affected, according to Windsor Regional Hospital.
There are currently 15 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the region.
There are nine patients at Windsor Regional Hospital, with four in the ICU. One of the patients is in their 30s and another is in their 40s.
Windsor Regional Hospital officials said in a meeting Friday that they are seeing younger people in hospital and are concerned as variant of concern cases are on the rise.
Though Windsor-Essex does not have many COVID-19 patients in hospital at this time, Windsor Regional Hospital CEO David Musyj said they are clearing their beds to help other regions.
"It's a provincial health-care system, our beds in Windsor-Essex are provincial beds," Musyj said. "We have to not only be able to help the province, but also, we have to remember, we're not totally immune to COVID."
The last time hospitals in the region winded down their services was in December, in the middle of the second COVID-19 wave.
6,000 elective surgery backlog
Windsor Regional Hospital reports it has a backlog of about 6,000 elective surgeries.
Musyj said a "good portion" are eye surgeries that the hospital is working with an outside location to continue performing.
"The goal is if we can get out of this, not only locally but provincially, sooner rather than later [and] if we are ... still at where we're at now with respect to COVID, then we can start getting back into surgeries that much faster," Musyj said. "It's hopefully a very temporary impact."
Windsor Regional Hospital chief of staff Dr. Wassim Saad said if they can operate at 120 per cent capacity, they can clear the backlog in 18 months.
The hospital said it will continue performing cancer surgeries "for now," but anything deemed non-urgent or non priority will be cancelled. Saad said that can change "at any moment" and they may have to cancel cancer surgeries if the situation gets worse.
In March, Windsor Regional Hospital told CBC News that it was running its operating rooms at full capacity in order to clear a backlog of 2,500 to 3,000 elective surgeries.
Across the province, Musyj said there's an estimated 240,000 surgeries that have been postponed since the start of the pandemic.
With files from Mike Crawley