Hamilton Public Health (HPH) says the recently reported strain on hospital operations in the city was the marker that confirmed cold and flu season started early this year compared with the last two years.
During a board of health meeting at city hall on Monday, the city’s health staff said influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and COVID-19 through the fall contributed to higher-than-normal occupancy rates across the city’s hospital network, including rates of up to 140 per cent at inpatient pediatric units.
“As a consequence, (this) has resulted in remobilization of resources, including some curtailing of services such as reduced surgical capacity to maintain care and capacity for the ICUs,” resident physician Dr. Brendan Lew told the mayor and councillors.
“There is also some triaging of older adolescent patients to other Hamilton hospitals as is necessary.”
As of Wednesday last week, HPH characterized the city’s transmission of influenza as “moderate and stable,” while infections tied to COVID-19 remain “moderate and decreasing.”
Lew said with the ongoing hospital pressures, a dedicated seven-day-a-week clinic is set to open at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton’s (SJHH) West 5th Campus.
The clinic, run by St. Joe’s, will open Tuesday offering sessions by appointment for adults and children experiencing flu, COVID-19 or cold symptoms care between 4:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. Monday through Friday as well as Saturday and Sunday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
However, the site will not provide emergency care for those experiencing symptoms like shortness of breath and chest pain. People with those conditions are being recommended to seek hospital care.
Public health’s advice to Hamiltonians amid this year’s cold and flu season includes masking indoors, staying up to date with vaccinations and staying home when sick.
Lew also suggests those at higher risk of severe illness look into viral treatments they may qualify for, like Paxlovid for COVID-19, Tamiflu for the flu, or RSV prophylaxis for high-risk infants.
“It’s important for people to be in touch with their doctor to ensure that they have a plan about how they might access these treatments should they require them,” Lew said.
Public health to close clinic at CF Lime Ridge
The city will close its Mountain vaccination clinic at CF Lime Ridge Mall, which opened in November of last year, to reallocate staff to operate a second mobile clinic team.
Public health said the location, set up for COVID-19 vaccinations, will shut down Dec. 21 to shift staff and resources to a mobile clinic starting in January 2023.
“This is, again, an opportunity for us to focus on addressing barriers to vaccination for high-risk populations and to address vaccine equity in partnership with our vaccine ambassador team,” Lew said.
Most areas in Hamilton have reached 75 per cent coverage for residents in terms of primary COVID-19 vaccinations, with many areas above 90 per cent.
Areas with lower coverage remain the ones that traditionally had deficiencies during the pandemic, including some rural areas and the lower city.
Public health is also expected to pair up with GO Transit’s GO VAXX clinics in the new year to supplement local mobile clinics.