UPDATE: Some surgeries put on hold again because of COVID-19

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Non-urgent and elective surgeries at the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance will be ramped down to address a surge in COVID-19 cases across Ontario that is filling up intensive care units (ICUs).

Ontario Health, the provincial health agency, has asked all hospitals to stop elective procedures such as hip and knee replacements starting on Monday to free up capacity for all intensive care patients.

CKHA will continue to provide urgent and emergent services as well as the necessary programs to support those procedures including diagnostics, and the Post-Anesthesia Care Unit.

Given current local demands on the hospital, CKHA will maintain its ambulatory and diagnostic services.

“The direction, however, is to continue with limited ambulatory services and we will adhere to that. If local conditions change, or if the hospital is called on to support other hospitals in the region or across the province, CKHA will take steps to immediately ramp down or cease these limited ambulatory services,” the hospital said in a media release.

If and when cancellation of surgical procedures is required, patients will be notified by their surgeon.

“CKHA relies on the clinical judgement of its surgeons to make informed decisions of which cases to proceed with during ramp down measures.¬†Patients will be contacted in advance if their scheduled appointments are affected,” read the release.

Currently, there are four patients in the 10 bed ICU and 10 patients in the 12 bed Progressive Care Unit (PCU), which could be converted to intensive care if needed. One of the four patients in ICU has COVID-19.

The hospital’s ICU occupancy must remain at 85 per cent or lower. Available capacity also needs to be accessible with a quick turnaround.

“This is a temporary measure to create capacity within CKHA to respond to the urgent critical care needs that hospital partners across the region and province are currently experiencing…Beds at CKHA are a provincial asset and the hospital must take a regional approach to help ease capacity on the wider system. This includes preparing to accept patient transfers from other regions to CKHA if needed.” read the release.

The Chatham-Kent Health Alliance currently has a backlog of more than 2,000 surgeries because they had to be deferred during the pandemic.

There are more than 500 COVID-19 patients in ICUs across Ontario. The province has roughly 2,000 ICU beds.