CORNWALL, Ontario – Cornwall City Council received an update on the status of the Cornwall Community Hospital (CCH) from hospital CEO Jeanette Despatie on Thrusday, April 8.
Despatie explained that both the CCH in general and the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU) is experiencing a strain on its resources.
“I will say that at CCH right now, very much an unprecedented time which we are seeing across the province,” she said.
She told Council that the CCH had expanded its number of beds from a normal average of 150-160 to 188, and that they had expanded their ICU capacity from 11 beds to 15.
As of Thursday morning, the CCH had a total occupancy rate of 109 per cent with 204 beds filled.
Despatie told Council that the hospital had 30 COVID-19 patients, and that 18 of those cases were still active with five individuals in the ICU.
Despatie said that the strain was not just on numbers of beds, but on personnel as well.
“That really gives a picture of numbers and what it feels like. It not only creates a challenge for beds, but for staffing. These are demands that we have never seen before, but have definitely prepared for,” said Despatie.
She predicted that things were likely to get more dire over the coming week, and asked the public for vigilance.
“We really do think it will get worse before it gets better. Hopefully people are just extra vigilant. We have asked for this over the course of the last year, but never has it been more important than now,” she said.
To cope with the strain, the hospital has started pulling back on elective surgeries and delaying them.
Both the riding MP and MPP were invited to the meeting by Cornwall Council to give their input.
MP Eric Duncan said that he was working to help find ways to bridge the gap and provide support for individuals while also working to get more COVID-19 vaccine into the country.
MPP Jim McDonell said that he hoped that once his government is able to secure more doses of the vaccine that the strain on hospitals will lessen.
“A lot of these problems will go away once we have enough supply (of vaccine). We think we are going to get some more on the weekend, but we aren’t sure about that yet,” he said. “I know the Prime Minister is doing all he can.”
Mayor Bernadette Clement pushed MPP McDonell to have the region declared as a hotspot.
“Giving us vaccine per-capita is not equitable if our area has more needs,” she said.
“I can appreciate the situation is dire, but when you hear what is happening in Toronto, are we as bad and are shuffling patients around,” McDonell responded. “Our number of new cases today is 63, which is high per-capita and I think we need to make that known.”
McDonell said that he was getting information from members of the public who were not taking the pandemic seriously, but that they did not know just how dire things are.
“This message is important to get out. Let people know that this is not business as usual and this is not a rumor that is going around. People aren’t taking this serious, but it is serious,” he said.
Despattie told Council that the CCH is ranked 17th out of all of the hospitals in the province for being the most likely to run out of ICU space.
“I can’t emphasize enough that this is not just a Toronto issue,” she said. “It is in other parts of the province and today it is in the East.”
Despatie also said that the average age of COVID-19 patients at the hospital was getting younger.
Vaccinations of staff at CCH was also brought up as an issue. Despatie said that while all staff members had received their first vaccination shot, less than 100 had received the second, which she said is making some staff members feel vulnerable.
“If we have an outbreak among our staff, then we are really in trouble,” said Despatie.
The Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) region saw a steep increase in the number of COVID-19 cases on Thursday, with 63 new cases added.
As of Thursday, there were 133 active COVID-19 cases in the City of Cornwall, 11 in the Northern portion of Akwesasne, 18 in South Glengarry, 25 in South Stormont, 11 in South Dundas, 21 in North Dundas, 16 in North Stormont, 22 in North Glengarry 19 in East Hawkesbury, 47 in Hawkesbury, 12 in Champlain, 21 in The Nation 27 in Casselman, 39 in Russell, 36 in Clarence-Rockland, and 12 in Alfred and Plantagenet.
There are 35 individuals hospitalized across the region, eight are in an ICU. There have been 84 deaths since March of 2020.
Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, Medical Officer of Health with the EOHU warned that many of these cases who get hospitalized were leaving individuals with long-term lung issues.
In terms of vaccinations, 29,148 doses of vaccine have been distributed, with Dr. Roumeliotis stating that he was pushing the province to select pharmacies in the Cornwall area as candidates to distribute the vaccine as well.