‘Not in the right place’, warn health workers as province scrambles to alleviate staff shortages

“To those who said, ‘This is light / only a few in intensive care / boo to restrictions’, can you come to work and help take care of these patients? ”

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A week after postponing elective surgeries, the Ontario government took further action to alleviate critical health worker shortages on Tuesday, announcing it would deploy internationally trained nurses to hospitals and homes long-term care provider in difficulty.

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The announcement came amid record-breaking COVID-19 hospitalizations in the province due to the highly contagious Omicron variant and worsening reports from some hospitals.

As many hospitals face unprecedented staff shortages and growing demand, Ontario has reported a pandemic peak of 3,220 COVID-19-related hospitalizations, including 477 in intensive care and 21 additional deaths. A week ago, hospitalizations related to COVID-19 were 1,290 across the province.

Some of these hospital patients have what has been called COVID-19 “incidental” – they were admitted for another reason, but tested positive for COVID. Fifty-four percent of hospital patients in the province have been admitted due to COVID and 83 percent of intensive care patients have been admitted due to COVID, Health Minister Christine Elliott said.

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Ottawa Public Health reported 52 COVID-19 patients in hospital and six in intensive care on Tuesday, down slightly from the previous day, but numbers reported by hospitals are higher. There are 126 patients with COVID-19 at The Ottawa Hospital; Queensway Carleton Hospital has reported 75 COVID patients including four intensive care patients. PHO only reports the number of Ottawa residents who develop COVID-19 in the community and go to hospital. The TOH number and other hospital counts include patients who developed COVID-19 in hospital and cases in other areas.

In Ottawa and elsewhere, the pressure is felt inside hospitals.

At The Ottawa Hospital, some patients have been moved to a vacant gymnasium at the Rehabilitation Center as part of emergency plans to accommodate more patients.

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“To those who said, ‘This is light / only a few in intensive care / boo to restrictions’, can you come to work and help take care of these patients? Emergency doctor Dr Edmund Kwok tweeted.

A woman whose mother had to be hospitalized said she was told her mother would likely wait six days in the emergency room before having a bed.

Another doctor at the hospital warned that the current doubling time for COVID patients at TOH was now just under five days.

“It should be alarming to everyone that we have more than doubled the number of hospitalizations in Ontario over the past week,” tweeted Dr. Samantha Halman. “Don’t be fooled into thinking we’re in the right place. We are not.”

The Ontario government has said it will accelerate the integration of internationally educated nurses into the health care system through a program with the College of Nurses of Ontario. About 1,200 of these nurses have already expressed an interest. The province will also welcome nursing and medical students to hospitals in supervised programs, Elliott announced Tuesday.

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These measures are aimed at filling staff shortages in hospitals and elsewhere and preventing hospitals from being overwhelmed, she said.

With COVID-19 cases at record levels and still growing, the Ontario government has started to change the way it reports hospitalizations for COVID-19, separating patients hospitalized for COVID from those who have been hospitalized. for another reason and tested positive for COVID-19.

“While this doesn’t change the severity of the situation, we believe it’s important to share this data to provide additional context,” Elliott said.

She said encouraging news for patients and hospitals was that the median length of stay in intensive care was significantly shorter for patients with Omicron than it was with the Delta variant – around seven days, versus 21 days with Delta.

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Hospitals across the province are ready to bring in workers who have been exposed to COVID-19 and even those who test positive for COVID-19, if necessary, to alleviate the staff crisis as part of a provincial protocol, a said Matthew Anderson, President and CEO. from Ontario Health.

The Ottawa Hospital has brought in workers who are close contacts, but no one has tested positive, spokeswoman Rebecca Abelson said.

“With increasing cases of COVID-19 and shortages in healthcare personnel, The Ottawa Hospital is adjusting to ensure that we can continue to provide high quality patient care at our community, ”she said.

Elliott said the province expected the current pandemic wave to peak by the third or fourth week of January, with hospitalizations peaking a few weeks later in February. With screening now reserved for health workers and the most vulnerable, it is difficult to measure the severity of the wave based solely on cases.

Anderson said there were signs the “high rate of increase” in hospitalizations could slow. “But it’s still a little early to say what this means.”

Scientists who monitor COVID-19 in Ottawa’s wastewater, meanwhile, say samples taken last weekend suggest a stabilization of COVID-19 in the city after schools and restaurants were closed and the tightening of other restrictions. Schools are expected to resume in-person learning next week.

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