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Overwhelmed hospitals delay non-urgent procedures yet again

Area hospitals that had been trying to deal with the backlog of surgeries, testing and other non-pandemic-related cases are in the midst of a setback. As of this week, such procedures are on hold again.

The spike in COVID-19 cases over the last few weeks saw Ontario Health advise hospitals to proceed only with the likes of emergency and cancer care surgical procedures for at least a couple of weeks. All local hospitals will be temporarily delaying non-urgent procedures following this directive to help slow the spread many hospitals are currently seeing amongst their own staff.

“We know this will be difficult news for patients that are waiting for their surgery, and for our own team members. 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,” said Bonnie Camm, executive vp of patient care services at Grand River Hospital, in a release.

Until at least January 17, all hospitals – including Grand River Hospital, St. Mary’s General Hospital, Cambridge Memorial Hospital, Guelph General Hospital and North Wellington Health Care – will be delaying non-urgent procedures, maintaining emergency department services.

Hospital staff have been working on the frontlines against COVID for almost two years. Many are now starting to get sick themselves as the Omicron variant spreads quickly throughout the province.

As the new year begins, hospital staff are starting to feel overwhelmed at the rise in COVID patients coming in, wanting to redeploy staff where needed the most urgently, with administrators at hospitals like St. Mary’s saying they have to make some tough decisions. President of St. Mary’s Hospital, Lee Fairclough, said the recent moves were necessary to help deal with the rise in cases they’re seeing with the limited staff they have.

“We’re already starting to see the impact of Omicron on our workforce, no doubt in the same you are seeing it in your own families and among your friends. It does mean we’re increasingly challenged for staff at the hospital, and I appreciate your patience as we’re seeking to provide all the care that we possibly can during this time,” said Fairclough during the region’s weekly pandemic briefing Friday. “The reality is now I think this is more prevalent than it’s ever been.

“We are planning on doing that until January 17 as a starting point and then we’re going to really assess that as we continue. We are finding already that we are going to need to be able to redeploy some of that workforce to other parts of the health system, particularly over the course of the next few weeks. Every part of the province has received that direction for the time being. Every time we make that kind of a choice, that’s a hard choice and for those of you that have been waiting some time for your procedures, I’m sorry we’re finding ourselves in this situation again. You will hear directly if this impacts your surgery or procedures in the next coming weeks; you will hear directly from hospital staff about what will happen,” she added.

Local hospitals, alongside local public health departments and Ontario Health, will reassess the situation by January 12.

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