Chatham-Kent hospitals nearly full, but no plans to open field hospital

Mobile testing clinic in Chatham-Kent. July 2020. (Photo courtesy of the CKHA via Twitter.)

The hospitals in Chatham-Kent are nearly full dealing with the recent COVID-19 surge but the field hospital at the St. Clair College Healthplex in the Maple City is not needed yet.

The CEO of the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance (CKHA) Lori Marshall said as of Thursday afternoon, the hospital was at 96 per cent occupancy. She said currently the hospital has one COVID-19 patient in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), three more COVID-19 positive patients outside of the ICU, and 12 more probable cases at the hospital.

If the hospital does need to use the field hospital, Marshall said only patients needing minimal care who are nearly ready to go home can stay there because there is no laboratory or diagnostic imaging equipment.

Opening the field hospital would also include additional staffing challenges. Marshall said her full contingent of staff are currently working in the hospital proper, so they would need to hire more staff to take care of the additional site. She added CKHA has already hired a staggering 260 staff since March to deal with the pandemic and her team continues to conduct — on average — about 250 swab tests a day at the assessment centre in Chatham.

“We continue to hire but at some stage we are going to run out of available people we’d be able to employ and/or we would have to stop other services at that stage in order to redeploy staff,” said Marshall.

A few patients have been transferred from Windsor Regional Hospital to Chatham this week, although not as many as the 10 predicted on Tuesday. Another 12 were transferred from the hospital in Leamington on December 31 because COVID-19 in those municipalities was quickly filling up beds there. Marshall said the electronic health record system that recently went online at CKHA and Erie Shores Healthcare in Leamington greatly helped with the transfers from Leamington.

“We had access to those records and were able to do a seamless transfer. It was a major advantage for us,” she added.

Windsor Regional Hospital is expected to go live with its electronic health record system in April.