THUNDER BAY – Dr. Stewart Kennedy says the good news about the surging rate of COVID-19 cases in the city is that there has been very little impact on the hospital.
Kennedy, who heads Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre’s COVID-19 response team, on Tuesday said it’s fortunate that all of the current 56 active cases are healthy enough to remain at home in self-isolation. Since that statement, the Thunder Bay District Health Unit announced three more cases, including one patient who is hospitalized.
“It’s good news for this point in time, but I do believe at some point in time we are going to get some COVID-19 in the hospital and we are well prepared for the influx of COVID-19 in the hospital – but I hope it doesn’t happen,” Kennedy said in a video released to the community.
During the first wave of the pandemic, Thunder Bay Regional set up a separate isolation unit for COVID-19 patients, but closed it down from a lack of use. At any given time there were never more than a handful of patients housed on the unit, located on the hospital’s third floor.
Kennedy said it would only take them a day or so to have it back up and running.
For now, the hospital has not made any significant changes to its operations, save for heightening visitor restrictions and not permitting most care partners into the Oliver Road facility, with a few notable exceptions for end-of-life visits, children undergoing care and mothers giving birth.
Kennedy said until the situation warrants it, the hospital plans to continue ramping up surgeries, in order to clear a backlog that could take up to a year to wipe off the books.
The easy answer would be to shut it all down, but Kennedy said he fears that doesn’t actually make the community safer.
“The morbidity and mortality that we could experience with an increased wait list for our surgery, increased delayed diagnosis for our patients out there who really need to be diagnosed and need to be treated ... our mental-health challenges are overwhelming when we shut everything down,” Kennedy said.
“We cannot just think of the immediate acute-care crisis. We must think of the impact on our delivery of health care in the near future.”
Kennedy said he’s hopeful a vaccine will be in place by the springtime, noting that two companies, Pfizer and Moderna, have release very positive testing results, which could mean production of a vaccine can start shortly.
Until then, it’s up to the community as a whole to ensure COVID-19 doesn’t get any further out of control in Thunder Bay, which weathered the initial wave remarkably well, but has been hit by a rash of cases over the past week.
“The best protection that we have right now, so we can prevent the government from imposing restrictions on us, is to continue to wear your PPE – continue to wear your mask when you’re out, continue to wash your hands, continue to have physical distancing and stay home as much as possible,” Kennedy said.
“If you do go out, make sure you follow all the public health rules. This is the best defence. You owe it to yourself, you owe it to the community and you owe it, more importantly (to) the acute-care health workers out there who put themselves at risk.”