Flow of patient transfers easing as Chatham hospital deals with outbreak

© Can Stock Photo / racorn

The head of the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance (CKHA) expects fewer patient transfers to the Chatham site in the coming days as capacity pressure eases at hospitals in Ontario hot zones.

CKHA President and CEO Lori Marshall gave a local hospital occupancy update at the weekly virtual media teleconference on Thursday and said she doesn’t expect any transfers this weekend because Ontario is reporting fewer cases. Marshall also said there will be limited admissions at the Medical Unit because it’s under a COVID-19 outbreak and the unit will only be accepting COVID-19 patients until the outbreak is declared over.

“We could continue to take transfers in from elsewhere in the province or regionally, if those individuals were COVID positive,” said Marshall. “Because the numbers are coming down provincially, we have not had a request in the last number of days for transfers to come into Chatham-Kent.”

She added the situation will be reassessed next week but assumes transfer requests will dwindle because the number of cases is lower in the province.

The outbreak in the hospital’s Medicine Unit continues with four cases among patients and Marshall said it also affected a fifth patient who was discharged before the outbreak was declared on Tuesday and is now isolating at home. She added staff were swabbed and the 50 tests have all come back negative. Marshall also noted that two staff are off because they tested positive for COVID-19 but they’re not connected to the outbreak and two others are isolating because of close contact.

Marshall also reported 17 COVID-19 patients at the hospital in Chatham, 11 of whom are local residents and six are transferred patients from outside of the region. Three of those patients are in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and 14 are in the Medicine Unit. She added one patient is on a ventilator in the ICU and the 10 bed ICU is 90 per cent full, while the Medical, Surgical, Critical Care Unit is 87.3 per cent full.

Marshall noted there has been a total of 16 patients transferred to the Chatham hospital in the past few weeks but eight of them have been discharged. She can’t say for sure if all of the transfers have been COVID-19 patients and added the recent spike in hospital occupancy is being driven by the variants of the virus.

Marshall reported the average age of the patients in the local hospital with the virus is 48. Chatham-Kent Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Colby told the media on the same call that the average age of COVID-19 patients in Ontario hospitals is 71.

“It is disturbing that we are seeing people in the hospital that are younger but as disturbing as it is, it’s not surprising because we preferentially vaccinated our elderly people that have the greatest risk of a poor outcome,” said Colby. “So anybody that does end up in the hospital is likely going to be younger because the proportion of people protected by vaccination is much lower.”

Colby said he’ll get really concerned if the number of active cases starts going up. Chatham-Kent Pubic Health reported 36 active cases on Thursday, one more than the previous day. The number of active cases has been hovering in the 30s for a couple of weeks. The doctor added it’s going to be a constant battle until everybody gets immunized.