Ottawa, Valley accepting out-of-town COVID-19 patients

Special to WC Online

OTTAWA – Ottawa and Ottawa Valley hospitals are accepting critically ill COVID-19 patients from Ontario hospitals that no longer have the capacity to care for them.

The Arnprior hospital is one such hospital finding room for out-of-town patients.

As of yesterday (April 12), the province’s hospitals began following an Ontario Health directive to ramp down all elective surgeries and non-emergent/non-urgent activities. Because Arnprior Regional Health (ARH) only performs day surgeries that do not impact bed capacity, this directive does not apply locally.

However, ARH may be accepting increased patient transfers, according to Chief Executive Officer Eric Hanna, as the local hospital moves to support Ontario’s Health system.

“The ARH team will work closely with Ontario Health and hospital partners in the region to provide the health system with the necessary support available within its 141-bed capacity,” Hanna released in a statement.

In an unprecedented move, Ottawa’s Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) is preparing to accept young adult critical care patients.

“This is unprecedented in CHEO’s 47-year history and reflects how serious the third wave of the pandemic is,” CHEO CEO and president Alex Munter told the media “We need to do everything we can to stop the uncontrolled spread that is making so many people ill.”

It is a tragic sign of the growing severity of the COVID-19 crisis, amidst a third wave that is proving to be the most devastating of the three waves so far.

The move comes as Ottawa’s other hospitals have begun accepting critically ill COVID-19 patients from the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) where some hospitals have run out of intensive care room.

CHEO, which has been running at or near full capacity through the winter and early spring, is expanding its seven-bed intensive care unit to 12 beds to make room for adult patients. Six of its existing seven beds are occupied with pediatric patients.

CHEO said the plan is to accept younger adults to help take the pressure off other hospitals. The patients might include those critically ill with COVID-19 as well as other patients, said hospital spokesperson Patrick Moore.

Such transfers will only happen once hospitals in the region exhaust their available capacity. Children and youth will continue to be CHEO’s priority for admissions.

The Queensway Carleton Hospital, which accepted a transfer from the GTA earlier this week, has opened a second critical care unit because of surging numbers of severely ill COVID-19 patients.

It is part of a province-wide effort to make sure there is enough critical care space available for growing numbers of seriously ill COVID-19 patients. Minister of Health Christine Elliott confirmed today (April 13) the province has been looking at bringing teams of health workers in to help from other parts of the country, particularly the Atlantic provinces. Earlier, Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children opened a ward for adult patients to take some pressure off hard-hit hospitals there.

The opening of pediatric beds to adults is something not yet seen during the pandemic until now.

CHEO’s emergency department remains limited to patients under 18. Adult patients to be cared for by CHEO will be transferred directly from those hospitals.

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