THUNDER BAY - Despite the reopening of the COVID-19 unit and having the highest number of positive cases admitted to the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre since the beginning of the pandemic, hospital officials say it is still in a good position, but there are concerns about the growing number of cases in the community.
“Our concern is the amount of positive COVID-19 in the community, especially in the vulnerable populations so we do expect more admissions to the COVID-19 unit,” said Dr. Stewart Kennedy, executive vice president and COVID-19 incident response lead with the TBRHSC.
“I do believe over the next several weeks until we get a better grip on the vulnerable population that this will get worse before it gets better.”
There are currently 10 COVID-19 positive patients admitted to the TBHRSC, with three in the ICU. Two patients are from outside of the Thunder Bay District Health Unit catchment area but still live within Northwestern Ontario.
According to Kennedy, a fourth patient is expected to be moved into the ICU sometime on Tuesday. The other patients not in the ICU are in stable condition.
Kennedy said the hospital is just below 90 per cent capacity and surgical procedures and diagnostic procedures are still going ahead.
“We are open for business for all individuals who need our assistance, but it is concerning about the number of COVID-19 positive in the community and in the hospital, but at this point in time we are in a good position,” he said.
That could quickly change though and Kennedy said given the high number of cases in the district, there are concerns staff at the hospital could become infected.
“Even prior to COVID, we ran at 110 and 120 per cent capacity. We have sufficient capacity at this point in time,” Kennedy said.
“But with the number of community numbers outside of the hospital, the limiting factor is human resources. If we have any potential COVID spread in the hospital we have to shut down nursing floors or shut down outpatient areas because of our staff members getting ill or their loved ones getting ill and needing to isolate.”
The hospital reviews daily what procedures it will undertake on a given day and Kennedy said if the hospital surpasses the 90 per cent capacity, elective surgeries may have to be put on hold.
“We always want to keep capacity for our COVID-19 patients, especially as we expect more coming in. Following provincial guidelines, once you hit 90 per cent capacity, we need to rethink what we will continue to do,” he said.
“Certainly emergency surgery will always take place, emergency diagnostics, the emergency room is always open. That won’t be affected. Some of the elective stuff may need to be reconsidered as our capacity continues to increase.”
Kennedy added that hospital staff have been doing a remarkable job and it has reduced the length of stay for patients, which means even if capacity rises above 90 per cent, it can quickly go down again as more people are released.
“I think the key message is we are continuing to offer full-spectrum services despite the rise of COVID-19,” Kennedy said. “The hospital is still open for business and no cancellations at this moment in time.”