'Not business as usual': Ottawa Hospital making changes to operations amid Omicron wave

The Ottawa Civic hospital is seen Tuesday January 7, 2020 in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The Ottawa Hospital says "It's not business as usual," as it deals with staffing shortages and an increase in patients during the Omicron wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ottawa's largest hospital continues to actively recruit nurses and other health care professionals to support patient care, while using "unconventional spaces" for patients including the hospital gymnasium.

It's been one week since the Ottawa Hospital implemented its next phase of surge plans to deal with increasing patient capacity and staffing pressures due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"As the current COVID-19 situation continues to evolve, this wave is unlike anything we have seen during this pandemic, at the hospital & in our community," said the Ottawa Hospital in a statement on Twitter.

"We've had to make changes to how we operate. As much as we hate to say it – it's not business as usual."

The Ottawa Hospital says while the severity of many COVID-19 cases in hospital is lower than in previous waves, "The high transmissibility of Omicron, combined with staffing & space challenges, has created a tremendous strain."

The Ottawa Hospital has implemented new measures to address the rising number of patients, minimize the impact on staff and continue providing acute care, including redeploying staff and physicians to new areas.

CTV News Ottawa reported this week the hospital's surge plans during the Omicron wave includes moving some patients to a gymnasium at the Rehabilitation Centre for treatment.

"Rest assured that our teams have worked extremely hard to identify temporary spaces that could become care areas if needed," said the Ottawa Hospital on Twitter. "They are chosen carefully and are adapted to ensure they are safe and appropriate for patient care."

This week, the Ottawa Hospital issued an urgent request for doctors and medical students to fill in for nurses as the hospital deals with staffing shortages.

"This is a new initiative for The Ottawa Hospital, as part of our overall response to the pandemic. Like other hospitals in the region, TOH is redeploying staff to assist with the increased need for patient care during this wave of the COVID-19 pandemic," said the Ottawa Hospital in a statement to CTV News Ottawa on Friday.

"We thank our health-care workers for their tireless efforts, many of whom have taken on new tasks and been redeployed to different areas. TOH continues to actively recruit nurses and other health-care professionals to ensure patients receive the support they need."

 As of Friday, 94 nurses and staff members are currently off due to COVID-19 related illnesses.

'HOPEFUL SIGNS'

While the Ottawa Hospital deals with a surge in patients and staffing challenges, it says, "There are many hopeful signs on the horizon."

Those include internationally trained nurses providing support in hospitals and increasing third dose rates amongst hospital staff.

"Thank you #OttCity for all the support you have shown healthcare workers," said the Ottawa Hospital. "There may be some tough days ahead, but as always, we will get through this because we are #StrongerTogether."

The severity of many COVID-19 cases in hospital is lower than in previous waves, but the high transmissibility of Omicron, combined with staffing & space challenges, has created a tremendous strain not just on TOH, but the health system in general.
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— The Ottawa Hospital (@OttawaHospital) January 14, 2022