Niagara hospital reports increase in ‘disrespectful behaviours’ tied to recent COVID-19 admissions

The emergency entrance at Niagara Health's St. Catharines hospital on Fourth Avenue. Google Maps

Amid a recent surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations in Niagara Region, the area’s top network made a plea on Tuesday for more respect from visitors and patients after saying workers have been subjected to rude conduct over the past week.

A statement issued by Niagara Health suggests staff and physicians have experienced an increased number of “disrespectful behaviours” as teams manage COVID-19 activity and eight outbreaks at its Niagara Falls, St. Catharines and Welland sites.

Read more: Ontario COVID update — 1,662 people in hospital with the virus, 203 in intensive care

“People are exhausted and discouraged, and this includes our staff and physicians who continue to provide care for those in need,” the network said in its release.

“With these latest pressures on the healthcare system, including in our emergency departments, now more than ever, our staff and physicians need our community’s support and kindness and to work in an environment where they are safe and respected.”

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Largely connected with the spread of the BA.2 variant and relaxed public health measures across Ontario, the hospital is reporting a combined 90 COVID-19 inpatients who tested positive in their care, including five in intensive care (ICU).

Seven patients with COVID-19 have died in the hospitals since Thursday.

Compounding the problem are 372 Niagara Health staff members and physicians self-isolating for COVID-19 as of Tuesday and unable to work.

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Last week, the region’s top doc hinted at the likelihood of more hospitalizations in the weeks ahead based on wastewater data from the St. Catharines, Fort Erie and Niagara Falls treatment plants showing “negative data” suggesting “an upward trajectory” of infections.

During his April 11 briefing, acting medical officer of health Mustafa Hirji revealed hospitalizations were “doubling,” up 189 per cent over four weeks with the bulk of the afflictions related to COVID-19.

Read more: Quebec’s COVID-19 hospitalizations jump by 100, province adds 26 new deaths

“If we’re looking at people hospitalized primarily for COVID 19 … we can see that has more than tripled with a 227 per cent increase in hospitalizations for that purpose,” Hirji said.

Hirji suggested the province should consider “more assertive action,” potentially reversing some “lifted” public health measures, like face coverings, to lessen the number of hospitalizations and people dying from the infection.

“If we don’t take any action now, that upwards trajectory I showed you in our wastewater will start to reflect infections in our hospitalizations,” said Hirji.

“Who knows how well we will be able to weather that, how well our hospitals will handle that and more importantly the suffering that people in our community will go through if they’re being hospitalized.”

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On Friday, the MOH expressed some “cautious optimism” with new science table estimates suggesting concentrations of the coronavirus in wastewater have peaked in Ontario.

Niagara Health’s statement on Tuesday urged residents to wear face masks in general and revealed adjustments to its current visitor policy, allowing for only one visitor or essential care partner per bedside inpatient.

The network is also banning visitors for patients tied to a facility outbreak or in isolation due to COVID-19.

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