Windsor Regional Hospital officials dust off plans to revitalize the field hospital at St. Clair College as the “cracking weeks” of the soaring wave of Omicron’s variant of COVID-19 loom this month.
Since the hospital’s two locations have already achieved a bed occupancy rate of 85 percent, there are fears that the explosion of cases expected in the next 14 days could overwhelm the system.
“We have had preliminary discussions with the college and, if necessary, the field hospital could be fully operational in seven to ten days,” said David Musyj, CEO of Windsor Regional. “We don’t want that if we don’t have to.
“There is also a question of whether we have the human resources and what kind of patients are treated there.”
The hospital tripled the planned position of each shift to ensure that there would be replacements in the event of illness. There are currently 363 employees among the hospital’s 4,800 employees who are isolating themselves due to close contact or a COVID-19 infection.
Chief of Staff Dr. Wassim Saad, this wave of Omicron presents different challenges than the first two variants.
The first year of the pandemic was about keeping the beds in the intensive care unit, but now it’s the beds in the ward.
There are currently six patients in the intensive care unit and a total of 44 patients in the hospital due to COVID.
There are currently seven intensive care beds, eleven surgical, 17 medical and four pediatric beds open, as well as some beds for family births and mental health.
“I don’t expect our critical capacity to be overloaded,” Saad said. “We’re concentrating more on medical beds.”
Karen Riddell, chief nursing executive and COO of Windsor Regional, said the need for a field hospital is determined by the load distribution of the beds.
Riddell said all hospitals evaluate their bed occupancy and staffing levels two or three times a day. During COVID, patients were moved across the region and province to maintain this load balance.
“If there’s no way to move patients around the city, region, or province, we’ll have to pull the trigger (to open the field hospital),” said Riddell.
Musyj said a field hospital would be for the recovery of patients, not acute care. He is also optimistic that the lessons have been learned from the first three waves and that the effects of vaccines and other adjunct drugs will prevent this need from developing.
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The Hotel Dieu-Grace Healthcare also offers a backup scenario for non-acute care beds.
“We haven’t seen the full effect of Omicron yet,” said Musyj.
“The crunch weeks are forecast to be January 10th and 17th. Unfortunately, these will be a very difficult time for our health system. “
Musyj said he expected the next four to six weeks to be tough for health care, but based on the experience reported elsewhere, the variant could expire as soon as it arrived.
“Because it’s moving so fast, it’s possible that it will be over sooner,” said Musyj. “The situation could stabilize by mid-February or the end of February.”