COVID-19: Kitchener hospital issues warning about ‘unprecedented level of pressure’

The main entrance at the Grand River Hospital in Kitchener. Nick Westoll / File / Global News

Kitchener’s Grand River Hospital has issued a warning to the public about the pressures it is facing as a result of the rush created by the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

The hospital says that as of 11 a.m. Thursday, there were 11 patients waiting on stretchers in the emergency department awaiting admittance. It says that between its two campuses, KW and Freeport, there is one bed available out of 660.

“Today we are facing an unprecedented level of pressure across our hospital,” said GRH president Ron Gagnon on Thursday.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic we’ve added 146 additional beds and today, all but one — a remaining bed in our critical care — is filled.”

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As of Thursday, the hospital also had four active COVID-19 outbreaks which increased the challenges the hospital was facing.

Gagnon said the hospital may need to begin transferring patients elsewhere but given that hospitals in other areas of the province present similar challenges, that may be no easy task.

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“We are working as hard and fast as we can to find available beds and team members to staff them,” said Bonnie Camm, executive vice president of clinical services. “This week alone, we’ve opened 13 additional beds including our ICU C unit with four beds and nine beds for alternate level of care patients at our Freeport Campus.

“In most cases, these are patients who would be returning home or to long-term care facilities if it weren’t for the impact of COVID-19 and, in particular, the system-wide outbreaks.”

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She said that the hospital has been forced to place patients in the children’s inpatient and day surgery units and that the hospital will open 15 new beds at the Freeport campus next week.

The hospital said that despite the fact that the number of new cases in the community has declined slightly, it will still feel the impacts as, historically, the impacts to hospitals occur two or three weeks later.

It said area hospitals are preparing for the fact they have not seen the peak of the current wave of COVID-19.

“While the situation is dire, it is not hopeless and there is still much the community can do to support not just GRH, but all our local hospitals right now,” said Dr. Peter Potts, joint chief of staff at both GRH and St. Mary’s General Hospital.

GRH said hospitals are seeing a greater proportion of patients who are unvaccinated among those who have been admitted for COVID reasons or for other reasons that also test positive for COVID-19.

“We know vaccination is still our best line of defence against COVID-19 so please get vaccinated as soon as possible, whether it’s your first, second or third dose,” Potts said.

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“We also ask that you consider other options outside of our emergency departments such as the new COVID assessment centres at SMGH and Cambridge Memorial Hospital, urgent care clinics, or your family physician’s office. We will care for everyone who comes to our EDs, but please remember there are other options available to you.”

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