Hospitals in eastern Ontario say they are facing a shortage of staff as COVID restrictions are lifted and transmission in the community increases.
At the Kingston Center for Health Sciences, nearly 200 of its 6,000 employees are currently out of work, sick or in isolation, according to President and CEO David Pichora.
Pichora said he believed the transfer to the community was to blame.
“If you look at what’s happening in our community and with wastewater testing, it’s no surprise that we’re going to have significant levels of community staff contamination,” he said.
These local coronavirus wastewater levels have recently risen to record highs in some sites.
While the hospital itself maintains disguise requirements, Pichora said it is difficult to reduce staff exposure when these measures are not required outside the hospital in public places.
WATCH Dissemination in the community strains a large hospital in Kingston:
The spread of COVID has led to a shortage of hospital staff in Kingston
David Pichora of the Kingston Center for Health Sciences says the spread of COVID has hurt hospital staff and hopes people will wear masks to limit the number of patients who will be hospitalized. 1:39
Pichora said he hoped no further restrictions would be lifted until health facilities were able to respond adequately to the sixth wave. All COVID-19 rules in Ontario must be removed in two weeks.
“Certainly from the hospital’s point of view, we are really not ready to move forward,” he said.
Masking may no longer be required in many places, but Pichora said he asked community members to wear masks in public places to protect “stretched and tired” health personnel.
“We would certainly like people to wear masks in the community when they go to a store, a restaurant or whatever,” Pichora said. “It may not be necessary anymore, but that doesn’t mean it’s not reasonable.”
Most importantly, KHSC employees have strengthened in every possible way. They work overtime and take care of more patients each shift. But after two years they were burned. We continue to recruit, hire and train new employees every day, but that is not enough. We need your help.
– @ KingstonHSC
Hospitals in Ottawa are also experiencing difficulties
Kingston is not the only city to feel the impact of the new, highly portable version.
Many hospitals in Ottawa have told the CBC they are struggling to stay full-time.
The volume of the emergency department is historically high, inpatient admissions are comparable to a busy virus season.
But we are short of staff – 144 isolated at home today due to Covid being infected at home or in the community.
We recommend 😷💉 + limit your contacts so you don’t have to come here.
The Ottawa hospital said in a statement that it was experiencing “staff-level challenges” that could range from when employees need to be isolated or call sick.
Montfort Hospital said in a statement that 92 employees are currently isolated due to COVID – approximately twice the amount observed earlier this year. According to the hospital, staff shortages are linked to an increase in community broadcasting.
The average coronavirus wastewater in Ottawa is about three times higher than the previous record in January 2022.
Pembroke needs to relocate staff
Pembroke Regional Hospital chief executive Pierre Noel said the last few weeks have been some of the most difficult times of the entire pandemic. As restrictions ease, he said they see more staff infections than ever.
Noel says the hospital now misses about 10 percent of its staff every day. There are currently almost 100 employees either isolated or infected.
“Ready or not, we’re in the sixth wave,” Noel said. “And we’ve been experiencing this for weeks.”
Pembroke Regional Hospital has not been able to get through its surgical delay without sometimes having to reassign staff to more critical areas of need. (Google Street View)
Noel said the shortage of staff prevalent in Ontario’s hospital system “reflects the fact that the current option is so portable and widespread.”
Part of the reason health workers are so affected by the increase in transmission, Noel said, is because they are required to isolate themselves from the general public for longer.
While fully vaccinated people over 12 years of age should be isolated for five days after the onset of COVID-19 symptoms, hospital staff and others working in the highest risk conditions should be isolated for ten days after the onset of symptoms.
The “highest risk settings” include hospitals, comprehensive care facilities and shared housing.
Noel said the hospital plans to increase surgical procedures again, but due to staffing problems, they are not always able to allocate the necessary staff to some less urgent areas.
“This sometimes means moving staff from one part of the hospital to an area in critical need.”