220 staff out at Windsor Regional Hospital

(Photo inside an intensive care unit at Windsor Regional Hospital courtesy of Steve Erwin)

Windsor Regional Hospital is the latest to report a staffing crunch because of COVID-19.

As of Tuesday morning, 220 staff members were self-isolating, 91 of whom had tested positive for the virus.

Hospitals across Ontario have reported staffing shortages. On Monday, Erie Shores Healthcare’s CEO Kristin Kennedy admitted her concerns after many employees were forced to stay home, and Chatham-Kent Health Alliance currently has 58 in insolation.

At Windsor Regional, Director of Communications Steve Erwin said services and programs are still running. However, the concern is two-fold as the province heads into a forecasted flood of new COVID-19 cases involving the Omicron variant.

“If this persists and you have even higher numbers of staff unavailable, two things happen. One is you don’t actually have the numbers you need to deliver all the programs and services,” he said. “The second concern is, the staff that are available to work, there’s a fatigue factor that starts to set in.”

Last month, the hospital decided to extend its annual halt on elective surgeries over the holidays into January. The province directed hospitals to create capacity for new COVID-19 cases expected to spike in the coming weeks.

Erwin said his hospital expects to get hit by that wave next week. While Omicron causes generally milder infection, the transmissibility of the variant means hospitalizations will be higher.

“If you have 10,000 patients with Omicron versus 1,000 patients with Delta, just by sheer volume, you’re going to have a lot of those Omicron cases ended up in the hospital,” he explained.

Some may question the wisdom of the hospital’s mandatory vaccination policy last year, considering the staffing challenges now, but Erwin suggested it works in its favour.

“The good news is because our staff is double vaccinated, they’re able to return a little quicker than otherwise might be, and those symptoms are milder based on vaccination,” he said.