Dozens of staff off at CKHA because of COVID-19

An ambulance pulls into the Emergency Department at the CKHA in Chatham. (File photo by Matt Weverink)

The Chatham-Kent Health Alliance (CKHA) is reporting 126 hospital staff are being impacted by COVID-19.

President and CEO Lori Marshall said on Thursday that 24 staff members have tested positive for the virus,  while 54 have symptoms but are waiting for test results. Marshall said 45 are “work-isolating” and can come to work but have to go straight home afterwards, and three are working from home. Staff that are “work-isolating” are hospital workers who don’t have patient contact and have been in close contact with someone who is COVID-positive. They can work as long as they test negative daily for 10 days. The two hospitals in Chatham-Kent have a total complement of 1,400 staff.

Marshall also said, in addition to the four patients who were transferred to other hospitals this week, one more patient may be transferred to open up a bed. She reported the hospital in Chatham has 33 COVID-19 patients as of Thursday. Six are in the ICU and four are in the critical care unit. Marshall added that five of the ICU patients are on ventilators and are not vaccinated. She also mentioned that 9 of the 10 COVID-19 patients in critical care are not vaccinated and the ICU is 90 per cent full.

Marshall said a field hospital is not being considered at the moment because of staffing and logistical challenges, but it hasn’t been completely ruled out. Marshall said the approach right now is to maximize support for beds in the hospital.

“The more you spread out your services, the more staff you need to do that because it’s not just the actual care of the patient, it’s also the logistics of feeding those patients, getting food and supplies there, splitting up your equipment,” said Marshall.

She also noted that current hospital stays are not shorter with the milder Omicron variant of concern.

“When people are sick enough with COVID of any strain to be in hospital, the length of stay we’re seeing is similar to what we saw in the previous wave,” she added.

Marshall said she is worried about hospital capacity and running out of places to transfer patients if needed.

“Absolutely, I am worried that capacity will become an issue for every single hospital in the province and not just us,” Marshall said.

Meanwhile, Chatham-Kent Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Colby expressed his concern with the milder Omicron variant because the public may not take it as seriously. Colby also estimates that only a quarter of the actual number of local COVID-19 cases are being reported.

Marshall also said that CKHA is not mandating boosters shots for staff at this time. The Municipality of Chatham-Kent is also not considering changing its current vaccination policy for staff.

Outgoing Chief Administrative Officer Don Shropshire reported on Thursday that 68 municipal staff are off because of COVID-19. He said 18 have the virus and 50 are self-isolating.