Record number of BWH staff off sick

Bluewater Health staff in personal protective gear (Photo courtesy of Bluewater Health via Twitter)

This latest wave of COVID-19 has resulted in added pressure for Bluewater Health staff.

At the end of December, the hospital was forced to scale back select procedures due to increased demand on the ICU and medicine units, amidst a rising number of cases in the community.

President and CEO Mike Lapaine said the staff at the hospital, including doctors and nurses, are members of the same community and not immune to the situation.

Lapaine told Sue Storr on CHOK (103.9FM/1070AM), that they’ve had a record number of staff absences recently, over 45 Thursday alone and upwards of 50 the past couple of days, resulting in unprecedented demand on everyone at the hospital.

“On the staffing office, the occupational health office, the HR (human resources) people, I mean it’s not just the clinical people, it’s the people trying to scramble around and fill those shifts and to make sure that we have the right people at the right time,” said Lapaine. “This phenomenon is not unique to Lambton County, we’re seeing it in other centres, and at a provincial level that’s where the concern is at, is health human resources.”

He said staff are isolating for at least five days and rapid-testing before returning to work.

“I think this morning we had about 91 total staff in self-isolation but about 56 or so are scheduled to return in the next three days,” he said. “So that trend is very encouraging, in other words the trend line of staff phoning in sick versus staff being able to come off isolation is going down and that will be very helpful. And to be fair, this has been a long almost two years and people that are working in healthcare have had a very, very difficult time and they’re exhausted. What we’re dealing with is a very fatigued and burnt-out workforce that are still trying to do the best they can in less than ideal circumstances.”

Lapaine said occupancy at the hospital is better than last week, but the situation is very fluid.

In a tweet Wednesday, Bluewater Health Chief of Staff Dr. Mike Haddad said hospital occupancy is at 85 per cent, with 10 out of 14 ICU beds occupied.