The cost of COVID-19 is being felt at the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance, and it could continue to be felt long after the pandemic is one day over.
With another death reported Sunday at the hospital, Lori Marshall, president and CEO of the CKHA, said staff losing patients can take its toll, and that toll has been staggering.
“The number of deaths we’ve seen even since January has certainly been significant. It is something we find very difficult,” she said. “There is not only the impact of COVID-19 on the individuals we’re caring for, but also there is the morale; the distress of knowing the patients we aren’t able to care for right now.”
Marshall said the suspension of elective surgeries is impacting lives. Such surgeries may be scheduled procedures and not listed as emergency procedures, but that does not mean they are not required.
Because staff are needed to tend to COVID-positive patients, there simply isn’t the manpower to open the surgical units at this time.
The surging death toll from COVID-19 locally should also tell everyone how much more deadly the virus is as compared to influenza.
“There is no comparison. The impact of COVID has been significant and sustained,” Marshall said. “And I would say it has changed the face of health care and health-care workers forever.”
Alan Wildeman, CKHA board chair, agreed with Marshall.
“In terms of the flu versus omicron, if you look at the actual data, the Centre for Disease Control has calculated that the flu has caused 1.8 deaths per 100,000 people over a 20-year period between 1999 and 2019. COVID is causing 215 deaths per 100,000 people. People who keep on saying it’s no worse than the flu…they’re simply wrong,” he said.
Wildeman said the impact will be felt for some time to come.
“The effects on staff are orders of magnitude greater typically than what’s been experienced by the flu. This is a long-lasting effect on people working in the health-care system,” he said.
Marshall predicts when the pandemic eventually wanes, we will see a good number of health-care professionals leave the industry due to the toll it has taken on them.
“Hopefully, health-care professions remain an important aspiration of our youth,” she said.
“The impact with respect to the morale of health-care workers over the course of the last two years has been very difficult and it is something that is going to take a long time for us to recover from,” she added.