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COVID-19: PRHC ‘managing reasonably well’ amid 3 outbreaks, up to 200 staff off

Click to play video: 'Peterborough Regional Health Centre seeing increased COVID-19 admissions & outbreaks' Peterborough Regional Health Centre seeing increased COVID-19 admissions & outbreaks
Like many hospitals in Ontario, PRHC is under "tremendous strain," according to hospital officials. The hospital is seeing a surge in hospitalizations, an increase in outbreaks and staff shortages. Jessica Nyznik reports – Jan 11, 2022

Peterborough Regional Health Centre is facing three COVID-19 outbreaks as well as staff shortages but is “managing reasonably well,” a hospital top official said Tuesday.

In a media teleconference, Dr. Lynn Mikula, the hospital’s executive vice-president, chief of staff and chief medical executive, said there are currently 30 patients admitted with COVID-19. Two of them are in an intensive care unit.

Mikula says the “vast majority” of patients had symptoms of COVID-19 when being admitted, noting incidental admissions are “tricky to report accurately.”

“It’s difficult because most of people we test in the hospital have symptoms of COVID or because they’ve been a high-risk contact,” she said. “So the majority of patients in our hospital — who we’re saying have COVID — are here because they presented with symptoms of COVID-19. It’s also important to understand that even patients admitted for one … condition, their primary condition can change while hospitalized.

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Read more: 46% of those currently hospitalized with COVID in Ontario were admitted for other reasons: new data

“It’s tricky to report this data accurately and consistently. I will say of those 30 patients, the vast majority were admitted due to respiratory symptoms or symptoms of COVID-19 that we would classify as their primary reason as to why they were hospitalized.”

On Monday, Peterborough Public Health declared a third active outbreak at the hospital, the latest on the B4 inpatient unit with seven cases reported. Other outbreaks declared last week were on the A5 inpatient unit (five cases) and on the neonatal ICU (two cases).

“A number of heightened infection-control measures are in place on the affected units including testing of asymptomatic patients, staff and physicians,” said Mikula. “All enhanced infection-control measures also remain in place hospital wide including temporary visiting restrictions, screening at all entrances, universal masking and frequent hand-washing.”

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Ontario to receive international nurses to assist with staffing shortages' COVID-19: Ontario to receive international nurses to assist with staffing shortages
COVID-19: Ontario to receive international nurses to assist with staffing shortages – Jan 11, 2022

The region’s surge in cases of COVID-19 has also affected the hospital with “about 200” staff off work — either with COVID-19 or they have been identified as a high-risk contact, said Mikula. The hospital employs more than 3,000 staff and physicians.

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“It’s important to state that the vast majority of these cases and exposure occurred in the community, not in the hospital,” said Mikula.

Under new provincial directives, the hospital currently has “fewer than 20” healthcare workers who have returned under “workplace self-isolation” with a number of protocols in place including N95 respirator masks, strict testing regiments and symptom monitoring and eating separately from other staff.

“We do not have any staff working who actually have COVID-19,” she added. “The only people we are bringing back are people in self-isolation or had some kind of exposure — usually a lower risk.”

Read more: Omicron is filling up Canada’s hospitals. Your health issue might not qualify, doctors say

Mikula noted like most hospitals in Ontario, PRHC is operating “at or close to 100 per cent capacity” on most days and there is no concern yet for physical space to deal with COVID-19 patients.

“We are exploring using different surge spaces. The real restriction is not physical space within the hospital, it’s staff to staff those beds.

“It’s an ongoing effort and changes day-by-day. But for the moment, we are managing reasonably well.”

In late December Mikula said staff were “exhausted” from 21 months of the pandemic but remained resilient to battle the latest stage of the Omicron variant.

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On Tuesday she also reiterated her presentation for people to follow public health directives and encouraged vaccination.

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