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Kingston hospitals struggle with huge influx of COVID-19 care

The top doctors from all three eastern Ontario health units, and the head of KHSC, are pleading with the community to follow COVID-19 guidelines as hospitals get overwhelmed. Global Kingston

Three medical officers of health from eastern Ontario, and the head of Kingston’s largest hospital, are urging their local communities to help slow the rise in COVID-19 to take pressure off the health-care system.

“For the last several weeks, Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC) has regularly had the highest number of COVID-19 inpatients and COVID intensive care unit patients of all Ontario hospitals,” a joint letter said Tuesday.

The letter was signed by Dr. Piotr Oglaza, medical officer of health for KFL&A Public Health; Dr. Ethan Toumishey, acting medical officer of health for Hastings, Prince Edward Public Health; Dr. Paula Stewart, medical officer of health for Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit; and Dr. David Pichora, president and CEO of KHSC.

Read more: Kingston hospitals forced to transfer patients due to high levels of COVID-19

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KHSC has dedicated 80 of about 500 of its acute care beds to COVID-related care, including patients on ventilators, active and recovered cases and people in quarantine. The hospital organization is also dealing with a record-high number of non-COVID critical care patients.

Kingston hospitals are the largest service providers for all three local health units. All three regions are dealing with a massive influx of COVID-19 cases, more than ever seen in eastern Ontario over the course of the pandemic.

With 618 active cases as of Friday, KFL&A has been hit extremely hard by the fourth wave. HPEPH is dealing with 203 active cases while LGL has 143 active cases.

With the confirmed spread of Omicron in the KFL&A region, health-care providers are expecting the situation to worsen.

KHSC has already transferred some critically ill patients to other hospitals due to the massive demand locally, and is currently looking into other measures to alleviate the “mounting pressure” on the system.

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“To ease the burden on the local health care system and ensure the community can continue to seek emergency and time-sensitive care, we are sincerely and urgently asking for your help,” the joint statement said.

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The four doctors offered up the following ways in which the local community can take action:

  • Get fully vaccinated when you are eligible to help protect those most vulnerable and keep your neighbours, friends, and family members out of the hospital.
  • Get your third dose or booster as soon as you are eligible.
  • Screen for symptoms of COVID-19 daily.
  • Stay home, isolate, and get tested if you have any symptoms, even mild symptoms.
  • If you are a close-contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case but have not yet been contacted by public health, please self-isolate and get tested.
  • Change your social habits: Avoid social gatherings and limit visiting others or having visitors.
  • Take physical distancing seriously. Stay two metres apart from people you do not live with and wear a mask in indoor spaces.
  • Consider curbside pick-up, delivery, or alternate hours for shopping if you are at a higher risk for illness.

Despite these warnings, the local doctors said that seeking care at local hospitals still remains safe.

The doctors, along with Dr. Gerald Evans, a local infectious disease expert, will be holding a press conference to answer questions later Monday.

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