Sudbury hospital officials urge COVID vigilance ahead of long weekend

Health Sciences North CEO and President Dominic Giroux. October 3, 2019. (Ian Campbell/CTV Northern Ontario)

Another long weekend is here and that has some officials at Health Sciences North worried about where the city is heading.

Greater Sudbury is currently dealing with a spike in numbers, largely fueled by COVID-19 variants. Now is not the time to let down our guard, officials said.

"We know people are tired, but imagine how tired frontline workers are," said HSN president and CEO Dominic Giroux.

"They have the same pressures at home with kids, school, spouses, aging parents, and then they come to work at the hospital. So what the public can do to help them is to stay safe."

According to the hospital's numbers, as of Friday at noon there were currently 13 COVID patients inside the hospital, six of them were in the ICU and there were another nine patients still waiting for results.

It's been a tragic week for medical staff, who are dealing with seven pandemic-related deaths in the past seven days.

"Until February, most of our COVID patients were elderly, this is no longer the case," said Giroux. "Our COVID patients between February and March were between the ages of 28 and 71. The average COVID patient in the ICU was in his or her 50s, and the vast majority of them had been screened for a variant of concern."

Giroux's comments come as the province said Thursday that the number of patients in intensive care could almost double by mid-April. More and more patients in the last few weeks had lung damage so severe, they had to be placed on life support.

Capacity is also a real concern. Hospitals across the province have been asked to expand critical care capacity by 15 per cent. Health Sciences North currently has 41 critical care beds and 36 are full.

The hospital's only admitted patients so far are from across the north, from as far away as Thunder Bay and Sioux Lookout, but Giroux said that could quickly change.

"We do expect that at some point, the surge materializes in intensive care units, as is now projected, that hospitals in northern Ontario may be asked to provide care for critical care patients in southern Ontario, as well," he said.

If and when they do expand, they're also anticipating they have may have to redeploy some staff to deal with the expected surge.

Surgical waitlists are also expected to grow as some elective operations will no doubt be put on hold.

All this while they are still dealing with an outbreak involving three staff and four patients.

Officials like Giroux are asking everyone to do their part, physically distance themselves, wear masks and treat this seriously. He said any little bit at this stage will help as they try to turn the corner on this spike.