Staff shortages, COVID-19 case load push The Ottawa Hospital into new surge plans

There are 43 people in hospital with COVID-19 in Ottawa as of Friday, five of whom are in intensive care. Files / The Ottawa Hospital

The Ottawa Hospital says it’s been forced to activate the next phase of its surge plans to accommodate a growing caseload of COVID-19 patients while also facing staffing shortfalls.

The local hospital said in a statement Friday that it’s “well-positioned” to continue providing care, but that it has to take the next step in its surge plans to increase bed capacity, redeploy workers from non-urgent care and otherwise adjust staffing models to meet the demand.

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Ottawa Public Health reported Friday that there are 43 Ottawa residents currently hospitalized due to COVID-19, eight more than the day before. Five of those patients are currently in the intensive care unit, two more than last reported on Thursday.

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The Ottawa Hospital’s statement warned that surge plans might warrant a change in setting for some patients receiving care.

“In some cases, this may mean that patients receive care in unconventional spaces. These spaces are being adjusted to ensure that patient safety, comfort and experience are all maintained,” the hospital said.

OPH is also reporting a jump in deaths related to COVID-19 on Friday.

Five new deaths tied to COVID-19 were added to OPH’s dashboard on Friday, raising the death toll of the pandemic in the city to 631.

Provincially, there were 43 new COVID-19 deaths reported on Friday, though Ontario said 42 of these fatalities occurred over the past 10 days.

An OPH spokesperson told Global News in an email that deaths attributed to COVID-19 can take time to be counted locally as well, as hospitals, coroners and other reports take time to filter into the health unit’s system.

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The spokesperson pointed towards OPH’s open dataset, which lists new COVID-19 deaths by date, for a clearer picture.

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Data from this past week shows three new deaths were reported between Thursday and Friday, with an increase of five deaths total over the course of the week.

OPH also reported 720 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, roughly 500 fewer than the day before.

But as the health unit itself pointed out in a long Twitter thread on Friday, “there is way more COVID than these numbers show” in the community because testing facilities can’t keep up with demand.

The thread went on to explain that testing capacity is now being reserved for high-risk populations and to remind residents that staying home when sick, wearing a medical-grade mask and getting vaccinated are the best ways to get through the latest difficult wave of the virus.

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Over the past week, the limited number of tests being processed are coming back 37.7-per cent positive, according to OPH.

There are now 83 active COVID-19 outbreaks in Ottawa, most of which affect health-care settings such as hospitals and communal living homes.

On the COVID-19 vaccination front, Ottawa doled out 30,711 more booster shots in the past two days, now hitting a total of 363,918 third doses administered locally.

There’s been little movement among the five-to-11 age group in Ottawa, however, which has seen first-dose uptake hold steady at 63 per cent.

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