By Bruce Corcoran
As the province prepares for a second COVID-19 wave, local hospital officials announced they’ve cleared the decks for more surgeries and procedures.
In the early stages of the pandemic, elective surgeries were placed on hold at the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance, as hospital brass braced for a possible influx of COVID-19 patients. But the surge never materialized. Most local patients have recovered at home and did not require a hospital stay.
Greg Aarssen, chair of the CHKA board, said as long as a second wave doesn’t hit our region, the health alliance should be able to ramp up procedures.
“We had to suspend some of our services during the height of the pandemic. And we are returning to a greater level of normalcy now,” he said.
Lori Marshall, president and CEO of the CKHA, said surgical volumes are about 95 per cent of last year’s volumes at this time.
“We’ve changed the type of surgeries we’ve been doing recently. Some of that relates to doing more out-patient and ambulatory surgery because that has lessened the impact to our beds,” she explained. “We are operating above 90-per-cent capacity as a hospital. We’re making sure we are not cancelling surgeries due to a lack of bed space.”
The high capacity, hospital officials said, is in part due to a bit of a backlog of getting patients out of the hospital who are ready to transition to the next level of care.
Marshall said the issue is shifting patients to an alternate level of care.
“We’re talking about those who have reached the end of their acute care stage, but there is something that is preventing them from moving onto their next point of care, whether that is a retirement home or a long-term care facility or going home with some additional support,” she said.
Caen Suni, vice-president of clinical programs and operations for CKHA, said as of last week’s press briefing, there were 37 patients waiting to shift to long-term care.
Suni said added layers of guidelines and protections due to the pandemic are leading to delays in many cases.
“This includes having to test individuals (for COVID-19) who are leaving hospital to be placed in long-term care, etc.,” he said.
“In working through those additional layers, we’ve seen a number of persons waiting for long-term care in our hospital. Our occupancy for our in-patient units is unseasonably higher as a result. We haven’t had to reduce any procedures or surgeries. It just means it’s something we’re keeping an eye on.”
Suni added the CKHA is working with local long-term care facilities to ensure patients can shift from the hospital to “their next destination of care.” He believes improvements will be seen sometime this month.