By Jenna Cocullo, Local Journalism Initiative
The Chatham-Kent Health Alliance (CKHA) made a decision to increase its ventilator capacity from 10 to 14 units this week in order to respond to patient needs and a full Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
Chatham-Kent saw 26 new cases of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, according to CK Public Health’s Thursday morning update.
The cumulative total now sits at 842 with 142 of those cases active.
There are currently four people hospitalized at the CKHA with COVID-19, all of whom are local residents. One of the four patients is being held in the ICU. There are an additional 12 patients suspected with COVID.
Although there is only one patient currently in critical care because of the virus, the ICU remains full.
“One of the major reasons why hospitals in particular plea with the public to adhere to all of the things that we know are helpful – the social distancing, the wearing of masks, the hand hygiene, the staying home – all of those things help to make sure not only I that we would not be overwhelmed with respect to COVID patients, but that our services are available for those individuals who need them. That can be people who have heart attacks, stroke, someone who gets in a car accident,” Lori Marshall, president and CEO, CKHA, said.
This week, CKHA also admitted 22 non-COVID patients from Windsor-Essex hospitals in order to help its neighbouring counties with their patient overflow. At the same time, elective surgeries were cancelled, and according to Marshall the two moves were not related.
“We’ve had to put a hold on elective surgeries; that way we can redeploy staff from our operating room and from our recovery room to help support (ICU). It is a separate and distinct issue from the 20 beds where we receive individuals from other areas of the region,” Marshall said.
Field hospital likely won’t open anytime soon
The field hospital set up at the beginning of the pandemic as an “insurance policy” in case of patient overflow, won’t do much help with ICU patients, according to Marshall.
The field hospital, currently housed in St. Clair College’s Healthplex, is not equipped with diagnostic imaging, meaning no X-rays or labs can be run. The only kind of patients that would be eligible for transfer are those that are stable or almost ready for discharge.
“So we would have to have patients who would be appropriate for that level of care,” Marshall said.
Marshall said the other issue is that the field hospital would require CKHA to hire more staff. Since the onset of the pandemic, it has hired 260 individuals, which Marshall said is unprecedented.
“We continue to hire but at some stage we are going to run out of available people who we would be able to employ and/or we would have to stop other services at that stage in order to redeploy staff,” she said.
Staff is now working regular operations at the hospital, excluding elective surgeries and the assessment centre which is seeing an average of 250 per day based on the last seven-day average.