With COVID-19 case counts and hospitalizations continuing to surge, there's growing concern local hospitals may soon be forced to start transferring patients out of the region.
"This week our hospitals across the region once again experienced the most additional pressure on the health system we've seen yet through this pandemic," said Lee Fairclough, President, St. Mary's General Hospital.
"The number of COVID-related admissions has jumped dramatically," Fairclough told members of the media during the Region's weekly pandemic update saying that number rose by 24 overnight Thursday into Friday, up from 129 to 153. "Since last Friday, our numbers have close to doubled."
In fact, in the last week, all three major hospitals report seeing a similar doubling in the number of patients admitted with the virus.
"And the percentage of people being admitted to hospital with COVID-19 continues to increase," said Ron Gagnon, President and CEO, Grand River Hospital. "I can tell you that at [Grand River Hospital], over the last seven days, 60 per cent of people being admitted to hospital have COVID-19."
"Yesterday that was 75 per cent."
These numbers, meantime, continue to have a significant impact on hospitals in the region as the number of available beds, at least at one site, has flat-lined.
"Right now at CMH we're 97 per cent occupied," said Patrick Gaskin, President and CEO, Cambridge Memorial Hospital. "That means we have six available beds to serve our community and only one of those is an ICU bed."
"We would have 12 beds," said Gagnon of the number of beds currently available at Grand River Hospital but adds a number of those still aren't usable as they're in outbreak areas.
And at St. Mary's, "We don't have any," said Fairclough. "So we're at 104 per cent occupancy."
On top of the shortage of available beds, all three hospitals say they also continue to deal with a shortage of doctors and nurses to staff them -- though there is some sunlight through the clouds.
"I think, on the positive side, we are now getting to the time where our staff who were off [sick or isolating] are now eligible to come back to work," said Gagnon. "So in our organization we're starting to see the number of people eligible to come back is starting to exceed the number of people continuing to go off."
Despite that, with the peak of the Omicron wave not yet here and case counts expected to keep rising in the community, there is concern some patients may once again end up needing to be transferred out of the region for care.
"I do think there are still some ways that we can open some temporary spaces and we're full bore on trying to do all of those," said Fairclough, "And then beyond that we still do have the mechanism to trigger that we need support from outside our region."
"That would be our worst case scenario to be back there again like we were in the summer."