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Miscellaneous: 2 Apr 2020
WATERLOO REGION — Hospitals in Waterloo Region will look to hotels and other large facilities for additional space if the area is inundated with a "super-surge" of COVID-19 patients, Grand River Hospital's president said Wednesday night.
Waterloo Region hotels could house patients in worst-case COVID-19 ‘super-surge’
In a "worst-case scenario," these types of facilities may be pressed into service to treat patients with alternate levels of care, or those who could be cared for in a community setting, Ron Gagnon said.
Such a move would provide additional space in the three hospitals "to deal with what I'd call a super-surge, as opposed to the surge that we expect to see," Gagnon said as he took part in a virtual town hall meeting hosted by Rogers Television and 570 News.
"This is going to be a marathon," he said. "This is not a short-term type of event."
Hospitals in other communities are making similar plans for a surge in patients they fear is coming. Burlington's Joseph Brant Hospital is constructing a temporary modular structure on its property that could house 93 additional beds.
Extra space is also being freed up within Waterloo Region's hospitals, where beds normally used for elective surgery and other services on hold during the pandemic could be used for COVID-19 care.
It's possible that patients from other communities could be transferred to Waterloo Region for care depending on capacity and need, said Cambridge Memorial Hospital president Patrick Gaskin.
"I've got a whole wing that's half-empty now," he said, in the wake of the recent opening of the hospital's long-awaited expansion.
Front-line health care workers themselves are falling ill; Gagnon said Wednesday night it's believed that about 40 staff members at the region's hospitals have tested positive for COVID-19. The total number of confirmed cases in the region stood at 117 Wednesday morning.
Safety of staff is a priority, hospital executives emphasized. "This is probably one of the things we think about the most," said Lee Fairclough, president of St. Mary's General Hospital.
Supplies of personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves are being carefully managed, and hospitals are examining how to maximize its use.
"We are looking at ways we can conserve it," Fairclough said. "That does not mean going without it, ever."
Hospitals in Waterloo Region are ramping up for a surge in COVID-19 cases by increasing the number of beds they have, hiring more staff and ordering more ventilators.
"We have had great collaboration with our regional and community partners to rapidly open more space and acquire equipment so that we are prepared to deliver care for increased numbers of patients with COVID-19," said Lee Fairclough, president of St. Mary's General Hospital in Kitchener.
Hospitals are also increasing the number of intensive-care beds to care for the most seriously ill patients. So far, about 15 per cent of the 117 cases in the region have required treatment in intensive care.
Right now, there are about 75 intensive-care beds in the region's three hospitals, with plans to add more than two dozen ICU beds in the next two to four weeks.
Grand River Hospital in Kitchener has 29 intensive-care beds and will open 14 more ICU beds in a surgical recovery unit. The unit, to care for an anticipated increase in COVID-19 patients "is not yet open," said hospital spokesperson Cheryl Evans. "We will open it when we need to."
Cambridge Memorial Hospital currently has 12 intensive care beds and plans to increase that to 22 by converting 10 medical beds if needed, said hospital spokesperson Stephan Beckoff.
St. Mary's has increased its ICU beds to 33, and is looking for add more Level 2 ICU beds over the next couple of weeks, for intensive-care patients with less complex needs.
The three hospitals have a total of 96 ventilators, which are needed to help seriously ill patients breathe if they come down with severe viral pneumonia: 23 in Cambridge, 40 at St. Mary's, including some borrowed from Conestoga College, and 33 at Grand River. All three hospitals have more on order. Grand River expects the 10 machines it ordered to arrive within a month.
Hospitals are also reallocating beds to be able to care for a surge in COVID-19 patients who need hospital care, but not an ICU bed. Beds that have been used for elective surgery are being converted to medical beds.
Cambridge Memorial Hospital has increased its medical beds by 50 per cent, from 64 medical beds to 96, by converting 32 surgical beds. "Those 32 beds are staffed," Beckoff said. "We're adding capacity within our means."
Cambridge is also working to turn a vacant floor into a fourth 20-bed medical unit. The extra beds will be in place by mid- to late April, depending on supplies, equipment and staffing.
Hospitals need staff around the clock to care for any patients in those extra beds, and all three hospitals have shifted staff, are hiring nurses, cleaners and other staff, have called back recent retirees and are calling on student nurses to help fill the need.
Surgical nurses are being trained to care for medical patients. Student nurses are being used to help doctors, and to help screen people coming in to the hospital.
Grand River has reallocated staff by temporarily closing clinics such as those dealing with cystic fibrosis, breast screening and adult mental health.
Some of the preparations are in anticipation that some hospital staff will themselves fall ill with the virus. So far in the region, about one in four of those infected have been health-care workers.
"Given transmission is in the community, we are expecting some staff to fall ill," Beckoff said.
by Brent Davis/cthompson Waterloo Region Record/Twitter/AA
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