Jenna Cocullo, Local Journalism Initiative
Hospitals in Windsor and Sarnia are in the process of planning together with the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance (CKHA) as they continue to gradually reintroduce elective surgeries and non-essential procedures at the hospital.
Additional procedures are expected to start as early as May 25, if the provincial directive is lifted and plans are approved by Ontario Health.
Lori Marshall, president and CEO of CKHA, gave an update on the reintroduction of hospital services at a press conference on Thursday morning.
Individuals will be contacted by the surgeons’ offices if they are booked for a procedure.
“So there’s no need for the public at this stage to be calling the hospital and asking if they’ve been rescheduled or scheduled,” Marshall said.
She explained that one surgery will trigger several other visits by a patient, such as diagnostic tests and follow-up exams, therefore reopening must be gradual. To start, CKHA will be reintroducing one additional operating room. Six are running during the pandemic.
Marshall does not know the exact kind of backlog that Chatham-Kent’s hospitals are facing, but said CKHA has been operating with a third of their normal resources.
“I think it’s fair to say that there are a number of individuals who have not been able to receive care. Although, emergency surgeries and urgent surgeries, including cancer surgeries, have continued,” she said.
Hospitals in neighbouring regions are working together to ensure that the reintroduction of non-urgent procedures are equitable for all Ontarians.
“In the event that something were to occur that prevented them from being able to proceed (with non-elective surgeries) then we would need to have a look to see how it is we could help and support each other,” Marshall said.
Under new provincial measures, hospitals must remain at 85-per-cent occupancy, so that hospitals can be ready in the event of a second COVID-19 outbreak. Prior to the pandemic, CKHA was working at 100-per-cent capacity, and in certain instances reached above its limits.
Hospitals are also asked to ensure they have a 30-day supply of personal protective equipment in place as supply use is expected to increase dramatically once additional surgical procedures begin.
The traffic flow and organization of waiting rooms are also expected to change as CKHA will work to maintain social distancing during the reintroduction of non-urgent procedures.
The reintroduction of non-elective surgeries and procedures depends on how well the community will follow social distancing rules to keep the spread of COVID-19 at bay in Chatham-Kent, Marshall said,
“We need to maintain our social distancing in the community. A major piece of us being able to proceed and be able to do additional procedures depends on there being a low level of COVID-19 in the community, and few admissions to the hospital,” she said.
“I would just encourage the community to continue the great work of social distancing, practicing good hand hygiene, and doing everything that we can to ensure that the hospital services are here in an emergency situation and also that we can start to do more elective procedures.”