Past lessons to shape how HDGH handles this year's respiratory illness season


Officials at Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare are preparing for everything that the respiratory illness season will bring to Windsor this fall and winter.

At the Board of Directors Meeting on Wednesday, a plan for occupancy and how things will work in and around the hospital were laid out.

President and CEO Bill Marra says back in the summer they received direction from Ontario Health to prepare for the potential of a spike in occupancy, and to develop plans to deal with whatever comes their way.

He says their hospital has been challenged with ensuring that they are at 95 per cent occupancy or more so that they can support the acute care partners like Windsor Regional Hospital and Erie Shores healthcare if they see a spike in admissions.

During his update, Marra told the board year to date HDGH between all of their different beds are in the 92 to 98 per cent occupancy range.

"As a speciality hospital we pull patients into this hospital that have very specific needs. Whether it be for rehabilitation, complex medical care, or specialized mental health. We are ready to introduce surge beds in necessary, the challenge is going to be no different than previous years: how do you staff them?"

Marra says the system becoming overwhelmed is a concern, and they will open up another unit at the hospital if need be for those surge beds.

The overall response this year will also look different, it'll be more business as usual while trying to protect staff and patients. 

He says they've learned so much over the last three and half years, so it's not going to be like it was in previous years when it comes to containing outbreaks.

"So instead of shutting down the hospital, instead of having full blown mask mandates, we will treat every outbreak as an individual challenge. We'll make sure that the staff are safe, and that the patients are safe. If we have to perhaps restrict admissions into that one nursing unit, we can do that, rather than shutting down the whole hospital," he said.

Everyone in the healthcare field has had to navigate the ups and downs over the last few years, and Marra says they're experienced at dealing with infection control challenges.

He believes from a physiological perspective, when you start calling out that there's an outbreak and start shutting down services, it impacts the morale in an organization.

"This creates fear in the community. What we need our community to understand is we know how to handle this, we're confident in our abilities, and these outbreaks will be no different than other infection control challenges. So we're going to meet the mandate and exceed it as far as occupancy is concerned, we're going to manage outbreaks as they come up, while ensuring that visitors can still come here and masking will be optional for visitors," Marra said.

The greatest challenge for health and human resources at HDGH right now isn't a lack of staff, but the amount of sick calls they're experiencing.

Marra says they have the staffing levels, they just need to ensure they have an environment where staff feel comfortable and safe, and they'll work with staff to potentially adjust shifts or work weeks that look a bit different.

He also highlighted the PSWs, personal support workers, as a welcome addition to the organization that have been working on nursing units supporting nurses to free them up to focus on their scope of practise.