Perhaps it was inevitable, but with the rapid increase of COVID-19 cases expected to have an equal impact on the number of COVID patients in hospital ICUs, our local hospital network has decided to hit the pause button on non-urgent procedures, at least on a temporary basis. For the first two weeks of 2022, Guelph General Hospital plus Grad River Hospital, Cambridge Memorial, St. Mary’s, North Wellington Healthcare, and Grove’s Memorial are going urgent only.
“The pandemic continues to demand that we make difficult choices and certainly the decision to temporarily suspend non-urgent surgeries for patients was not one that we wanted to make, but unfortunately necessary at this time,” said St. Mary’s General Hospital president Lee Fairclough in a statement from the six institutions. Fairclough is also the hospital lead for the regional COVID response.
“We must be prepared for the increased need for COVID-19 care while dealing with limited staff who are also being affected by COVID-19,” Fairclough added.
From January 4 to 17, the six local hospitals will be only providing urgent, emergent and cancer surgical procedures so that they can maintain Emergency Department Services, inpatient care, and essential clinics for as long as possible. The hospitals will re-evaluate just how temporary their pause on non-urgent procedures will be on January 12, saying that everyone will have to be flexible in order to respond to the rapidly changing COVID picture.
“Our goal will be to ramp up quickly when it is safe to do so but for now, these changes are necessary to support both capacity and the utilization of available staff to be redeployed where required,” Fairclough said.
On Friday, Public Health Ontario reported that there are 1,349 COVID-19 patients in Ontario hospitals, including intensive care. Locally, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health has not updated the number of COVID patients in area hospitals on their dashboard since December 23. An outbreak was declared in one wing of Guelph General Hospital on December 22, one day after they announced new restrictions for visitors.
“We know this will be difficult news for patients that are waiting for their surgery, and for our own team members,” said Melissa Skinner, VP Patient Care and Chief Nursing Executive at Guelph General Hospital in a statement. “As we start to see COVID-19 cases rise in the community and across our own team members, we need to take steps to ensure we can dedicate available resources to continue providing urgent care to those in need.”
The region ends 2021 with the most number of COVID-19 cases seen at one time. There were 219 new cases on Friday to bring the number of active cases in Wellington, Dufferin, and Guelph up to 1,874. By comparison, there were only 77 active cases of COVID in the region on December 1, and the 7-day moving rate of confirmed cases was just 25 per 100,000. As of Wednesday, the rate was 523.7 per 100,000, and the test positivity rate was 20.8 per cent.
In Guelph alone, there are over 1,000 cases of COVID-19 and the rate active cases is 708.5 per 100,000. The previous record high for active cases was 634, and that was for the whole region on April 17 of this year. Vaccination rates remain high though with nearly 17,700 shots give out this last week of the year, including nearly 16,500 booster shots.