St. Joseph’s reducing surgical services as COVID-19 cases in hospitals rise

St Joseph's Health Care London.
St Joseph's Health Care London. Via Google

St. Joseph’s Health Care London (SJHCL) is ramping down surgical services and procedures to prepare for COVID-19 patients being transferred to London from harder-hit regions in Ontario.

To prepare for the incoming patients, St. Joseph’s is rescheduling all non-urgent or non-emergent surgeries and procedures and redeploying staff where needed, including to London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC).

SJHCL is collaborating with LHSC, opening additional beds for non-COVID-19 patients who do not require acute care.

“We understand this is a stressful time for our patients but we must ensure the health-care system, regionally and provincially, has capacity to meet the needs of the most critically ill during this third wave of the pandemic,” says Dr. Gillian Kernaghan, president and CEO of St. Joseph’s.

Read more: Hundreds of COVID-19 ICU patient transfers planned as Ontario braces for ‘horrific’ 2 weeks

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Patients who have been impacted will be contacted directly and those with urgent and emergent needs will continue to be seen. Kernaghan said people who are not contacted should assume their procedure is still happening.

For this latest wave of the pandemic, St. Joseph’s has received funding for up to 44 additional beds at Parkwood Institute, 27 of which already exist and have been used at various points in the pandemic.

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St. Joseph’s announcement comes after Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health issued a directive Tuesday requiring all hospitals in the province to stop all non-emergent surgeries and non-urgent procedures right away.

Hospitals across the province are continuing to fill up with COVID-19 patients, putting a strain on the health-care system amid the third wave.

Read more: COVID-19: How a memo to ‘ramp down’ certain surgeries will affect London, Ont., hospitals

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“This is a rapidly evolving situation,” Kernaghan said. “We continue to closely assess the needs in London and our region, and how our organization can respond.”

As of Thursday, a record-setting daily case count of 95 COVID-19 patients were listed in the care of LHSC. Of those, at least 37 are in critical or intensive care, a decrease of two from a day earlier.

There were 2,350 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 on Thursday, with 806 in intensive care, according to provincial data.

“We are concerned we will continue to need increasing amount ICU and medical hospital bed capacity,” Kernaghan said.

Read more: COVID-19: Ontario emergency orders pave the way for more workers to help hospitals

On Thursday, health minister Christine Elliot unveiled new emergency orders that would allow workers to care for patients outside of their regular scope of practice. The orders also allow out-of-province health-care workers to practice in Ontario without registering with the regulatory colleges in the province.

Talks have begun to redeploy specialists including plastic surgeons and cataract surgeons to work in intensive care units, assisting with emergency, life-saving surgeries, Elliott said.

She said 45 health-care workers have already volunteered to work in intensive care, and the province is working with another 55 individuals about potentially making the move.

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