Ottawa seems to be a few weeks behind the Toronto area when it comes to dominance of COVID-19 variants, which appear to affect younger patients and make them sicker, he said. The variants make up about 50 or 60 per cent of cases in Ottawa, according to wastewater surveillance. In some parts of the province, particularly the GTA, they make up the vast majority of cases.
In response to the worsening situation, hospitals in Ottawa have begun cancelling non-urgent surgeries for the first time since the first wave one year ago.
In recent days, there have been record numbers of COVID-19 patients in Ottawa hospitals and case numbers continue to rise. As of Wednesday, there were 69 COVID-19 patients in hospital and 20 in intensive care units in the city. Even with the stay-at-home order that began Thursday, COVID-19 hospital cases will likely continue to rise in Ottawa because there is often a lag between positive tests and hospitalizations.
That has people who work inside hospitals worried.
“This wave feels like a tsunami,” said respiratory therapist Marilyse Dufresne-Cater, quoting one of her colleagues at Queensway Carleton Hospital.
Dufresne-Cater saw the impact of rapidly rising cases while working over the long weekend. The hospital’s emergency department was “inundated” with patients with respiratory symptoms, she said. All of those patients being treated by respiratory therapists had positive COVID-19 tests come back the next day.
“Things at the hospital are at a very worrisome level right now,” she said. “We have been hit hard and fast and unfortunately we have not attained the peak yet.”
More worrisome for hospitals is that unlike the first wave when occupancy was lowered dramatically to make room for potentially large numbers of COVID-19 patients, there is much less room. Local hospitals went into this wave at or near 100 per cent capacity despite having moved some patients into repurposed hotel rooms and a retirement home over the past year.
“Hospitals are quite pressed for space, all of them,” said Rose. “We are over capacity as other hospitals in Ottawa are as well.”
Queensway Carleton has begun postponing non-urgent surgeries that involve overnight stays in hospital for the next four weeks.
Queensway Carleton is also using surge space for patients, parts of the hospital not usually used for patient beds. As of Wednesday, there were patients in the emergency department waiting to be admitted, said Rose.
Montfort Hospital began postponing five or six elective surgeries per day earlier this week, replacing them with day surgeries that don’t require scarce hospital beds.
Spokesperson Geneviève Picard said the move was necessary because the province has asked hospitals to maintain a maximum occupancy of 85 per cent “to be ready for a potential wave of patients affected by COVID-19.
“We are very aware that postponing surgery has a great impact on the quality of life of our patients,” she said. “We apologize for this. We will do everything in our power to move as few surgeries as possible.”
At The Ottawa Hospital, the region’s biggest hospital, surgeries are also being slowed in response to climbing case numbers in the third wave. Suzanne Madore, executive vice-president and chief clinical officer, said each case is being evaluated and day surgeries are replacing any requiring hospitalization that have to be postponed. This week, at least 13 surgeries requiring beds have been postponed.
“I want to make sure people know that if the surgery is deemed urgent, it will proceed and we are doing our best to minimize the number of reductions or postponements,” she said.
The Ottawa Hospital is also preparing parts of the hospital not normally used for patients for overflow capacity.
This content was originally published here.