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COVID-19 staffing shortages at London Health Sciences Centre could lead to service reductions

The Emergency sign at London Health Sciences Centre's Victoria Hospital, September 6, 2017. Matthew Trevithick / Global News

With a large number of staff being off either with COVID-19 or because they came in contact with someone with the virus, staff at London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) say a reduction in services could happen later this week.

As of Monday, LHSC reported that 288 staff and physicians were off with COVID-19, and more were off because they are a close contact with the virus.

During the weekly COVID-19 media briefing, interim executive vice-president and chief medical officer Dr. Adam Dukelow reported that they were not able to staff all of the beds in their emergency departments over the weekend due to staff shortage.

“We have started to see more and more the impact of this sixth wave on our health care system, and it is significant,” he says. “As a result, we may find ourselves in a position of having to consolidate or reduce services as the week continues, or having to transfer patients to our regional partners.”

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In the event patients do need to be transferred, Dukelow noted that the public would be informed.

The challenge of staff shortages is something he says is being seen at other hospitals across the region.

What is happening in the hospital system also speaks to the community as a whole, with the Middlesex London Health Unit (MLHU) reporting the current level of COVID-19 activity in the area is as high as any seen during the pandemic, except for the Omicron-related surge in cases that occurred in January.

Despite rising case counts, London Medical Officer of Health Dr. Alex Summers said Monday that he would not be using a Section 22 Order to institute health restrictions at a local level.

“I would never take it off the table entirely. What I would say is the Section 22 Order is in place for a medical officer of health to respond to new, emerging, time-sensitive risk that requires a very urgent response,” Summers says.

“I do not think a Section 22 is appropriate in this current context and I don’t think as the medical officer of health I have the authority in the current context to use those Section 22 orders.”

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Summers instead is continuing to urge people in the community to wear a mask and stay up to date on their COVID-19 booster shots.

“It’s going to be important to follow the personal protective measures that have become so familiar during the pandemic, even if they are no longer required by the province,” says Dr. Alex Summers, Medical Officer of Health with the Middlesex-London Health Unit.

“With many folks planning to gather with family and friends this week and throughout the month, we need to remember that we each have a role to play in reducing the effects of COVID-19.”

 

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