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Ottawa hospital declares ‘Internal Code Orange’ due to staff shortages

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An Ottawa hospital has declared an “Internal Code Orange” due to staffing shortages caused by COVID-19.

A spokesperson for the Queensway Carleton Hospital (QCH) confirmed the protocol to Global News on Thursday, a day after the hospital announced it would be slowing down some services due to staffing shortages.

An internal code orange prepares staff to potentially be redeployed to work in other areas of the hospital or be mandated to work “if absolutely necessary,” spokesperson Caroline Hafner said.

Read more: Ontario changes PCR COVID testing eligibility, isolation reduced for fully vaccinated to 5 days

The protocol differs from a general “Code Orange,” which signals a community disaster that requires emergency treatment for a large number of people, impacting the hospital’s operations.

“Staffing is the primary challenge the hospital faces,” QCH said in a statement.

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The hospital currently has more than 40 staff members who have tested positive for COVID-19, primarily from household contact, “creating staffing shortages in several areas.”

To address the shortage, QCH will redeploy staff from other departments, which will “slow down services” at ambulatory care, therapeutic services, endo/cysto, and other areas. QCH will also only perform emergency and cancer surgeries this week.

Occupancy at the hospital was at 107 per cent as of Wednesday morning, which the hospital said is not “unusually high” for this time of the year.

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However, the hospital has 141 per cent occupancy in medicine and has 150 patients in isolation.

“We appreciate how difficult this is for our patients whose care needs may be delayed,” patient care vice-president Kerry Cook said in a statement.

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“Please know, this isn’t a decision that was made lightly. The team is working very hard to provide the highest quality care, and to return to normal operations as soon as we can.”

The hospital warns that those entering the emergency department may face “longer-than-usual” wait times.

Ottawa reported 683 COVID-19 cases on Thursday as the province logged 13,807 new cases in the last 24 hours — a new record.

The province currently has 965 hospitalizations due to the virus, up 239 from the day before, with 200 patients in ICUs.

Ontario also reduced the required isolation period for fully vaccinated individuals who test positive for COVID-19 from 10 days to five days, following the onset of symptoms, on Thursday.

— with files from Global News’ Gabby Rodrigues

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