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Small gesture could make big impact on pressure at local hospitals

The small gesture of wearing a mask to reduce the transmission of viruses could help ease the pressure on Quinte Health’s four local hospitals – which are now operating at 135 per cent capacity and seeing the same increase in emergency department admissions for children.

The plea to the community echoes Ontario’s chief medical officer of health’s announcement Monday morning that people should wear masks in all public settings, stay home when ill and get their vaccines and a flu shot before peak influenza season, generally early to mid December.

Moore made the recommendation as part of an update on hospitals overwhelmed with admissions of very sick children. Toronto’s Sick Kids Hospital has cancelled non-urgent surgeries and Ottawa’s children’s hospital has opened a second pediatric ICU.

Locally, the triple threat of the end of the eighth wave of COVID-19, the early return of seasonal respiratory illnesses and the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in children is coupled with staff absences due to COVID infection, and staff shortages.

“Ontario’s health care system is facing a very challenging fall/winter season,” said Stacey Daub, Quinte Health CEO, during a media conference Monday afternoon. “Quinte Health’s four hospitals (Picton, Belleville, Trenton and Bancroft) are not immune to these provincial trends and their impact on our hospital operations, our teams and our community.”

In the Quinte region, this fall has seen a significant increase in RSV in children – locally creating 20 per cent more paediatric related emergency department visits than in October last year, and a 40 per cent increase in the number of children being seen between the ages of four and 10.

“These extreme pressures have resulted in extended emergency department wait times, delays in transfers between hospitals and from the emergency departments to an in‐patient bed.”

Daub, and Dr. Colin MacPherson, Quinte Health Chief of Staff, stated the increases are translating into immense pressures at each of the hospitals – and staff is balancing ability to continue surgeries and diagnostic imaging on a day-to-day basis. So far, they note, they have not made any significant changes.

To reduce further pressure, MacPherson stresses the best thing people can do is protect others by wearing a mask when possible.

“That’s what all of us have control over,” he said, adding “We’re seeing a lot of kids getting sick. If there’s something we can do to prevent it, we should do it – especially if it’s as simple as just wearing a mask. It’s not a big deal.”

Despite the challenges, they note the surgical teams have been working to reduce backlog.

“As of October, the percentage of patients exceeding wait time targets is down to 15.5 per cent. This compares to the provincial rate of 52 per cent,” noted Daub, adding there is an 87 per cent decrease in the significant mammography backlog created during the pandemic shutdown – from a backlog of 3,171 patient requisitions to 390.

Daub adds the hospital is the fail-safe for people who need it.

Anticipating the challenges, Quinte Health initiated plans this summer to prepare, and mitigate impact on the community.

They include working with Ontario Health and local health partners on programs that provide other options for care outside of the hospital and working with partner hospitals to collectively manage the demand as was done earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic waves.

Due to a shortage in children’s cold and flu medications, Quinte Health is also working with pharmacies on preventative measures, and help for families to get better access to medications.

While it works with the provincial government to strengthen access to care and services, Daub notes Quinte Health has this year to date added an additional 85 clinical staff – including 25 nurses.

“Despite this success, there is still a considerable gap in Quinte Health’s health human resources, given the considerable growth in patients and beds in operations – a 56 per cent increase.”

She notes there are also support programs for staff to help them through the pandemic and current
pressures.

“We learned a lot through COVID-19,” said Daub. “We’re trying to put all the support mechanisms in place.”

Filed Under: Local News

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