‘Dire situation’: St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital reaches capacity as COVID-19 cases soar

St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital in 2018. Google Maps

St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital (STEGH) is reporting it is at capacity and facing a “dire situation,” with COVID-19 case numbers in the region rapidly rising.

There are 154 active cases in the Southwestern Public Health region, with one of the highest cases per 100,000 people in the province.

Due to rising case numbers, hospital officials say the number of patients requiring critical care is the highest since the start of the pandemic.

“We have reached our capacity to care for critically ill patients and our hospital is operating above capacity — both of which are the direct result of COVID-19,” said Dr. Waleed Chehadi, Chief of Staff at STEGH

Chehadi said admissions are expected to continue to rise over the next several weeks, meaning they will need to be transferred to other communities.

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“This is particularly hard for me to see as a clinician, since all of these infections could have been prevented had the individuals been vaccinated,” said Chehadi.

The president and CEO of STEGH
, Karen Davies, told 980 CFPL the hospital was treating for 13 COVID-19 patients as of Saturday and that its level three intensive care unit is full.

“It might seem that 13 extra patients shouldn’t be enough to tip a hospital over, but it is when you’re already at capacity,” she said.

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According to Davies, none of the COVID-19 patients is vaccinated.

She says in the past 18 hours, the hospital has referred two patients to another hospital due to its capacity.

“We still need to care for people who arrive with heart attacks, who have fallen off a ladder putting up Christmas lights, and as the snow starts to fall, we’ll see more injuries and falls presented to our emergency department,” said Davies. “We need to be able to care for the community.”

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To help ease the burden on the hospital, residents with flu-like symptoms are being asked to seek medical care before their symptoms worsen, or their condition requires life-sustaining therapy.

“While we do not want to discourage anyone from seeking care, please consider if your needs are potentially addressed through other health system supports available to you first, such as your primary care specialist’s office, walk-in clinic, or Ontario Telehealth.”

Due to the situation, Dr. Joyce Lock, medical officer of health at Southwestern Public Health (SWPH), said additional public health measures may be required to protect the community and hospital capacity.

“One of the indicators we use, when considering further public health measures, is hospital capacity. Our hospital partners are telling us their beds are full,” Lock said.

The health unit reports that 64 per cent of cases in the region right now involve people under the age of 40.

SWPH does not disclose the vaccination status of individuals but told Global News that roughly 78 per cent of active cases involve individuals who are not fully vaccinated.

“Get vaccinated for your own health, for the safety of our workplaces and schools, and to relieve the pressure on the hospital system we all rely on.”

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Lock is urging people to continue following public health measures like wearing a face mask and is recommending that people limit their socialization to a small group of close contacts.

Since Sept. 23, SWPH reported nine deaths in the region.

Click to play video: 'New COVID-19 modelling shows increase in cases across most Ontario regions'
New COVID-19 modelling shows increase in cases across most Ontario regions

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