York Region residents have been given a stern warning: the three local area hospitals have reached a ‘tipping point’ in the battle against COVID-19.
The CEOs of the Mackenzie Health, Markham Stouffville and Southlake regional hospitals sent a joint statement Tuesday afternoon to sound the alarm over the significant increase in the number of patients admitted for COVID-19.
“We are concerned about how this might impact access to care such as scheduled surgeries for all patients in our communities,” the statement said.
CEOs are calling on the entire community to come together to slow the spread.
“Our staff, physicians and volunteers are doing all they can to continue to provide exemplary care to patients and their families, but the growing pressure from COVID-19 is taking its toll.”
York Region has consistently ranked among the province’s four worst-hit regions, but managed to avoid lockdown when Toronto and Peel were placed in the more stringent “gray zone” on November 23.
Instead, the region has called for sticking to “red zone plus” restrictions and stepping up enforcement of COVID-19 precautions.
The numbers continued to rise to record highs. Public health reported 193 new confirmed cases and four additional deaths on December 8 and hospital administrators say the region is also close to lockdown.
“Social gatherings and close social interactions with people outside our home will push us to the limit,” warned Jo-anne Marr, President and CEO of Markham Stouffville Hospital, in a Toronto column. Star. “This will continue to force the closure of businesses and schools and places an incredible burden on health care services and providers.
The joint statement, signed by Marr, Altaf Stationwala, President and CEO of Mackenzie Health, and Arden Krystal, President and CEO of Southlake, said that more than ever they are counting on communities to be vigilant in adherence to public health guidelines – always in a mask in public when distancing is not possible and avoid social gatherings.
“We recognize that avoiding social gatherings, especially during the holidays, is a personal sacrifice, but we must do all we can to help protect our entire community and maintain access to our health services,” says the press release.
Words of encouragement, cards, posters, donations and driving tours have “meant the world” to health workers, CEOs said.
“We rely on our communities to help keep our staff, physicians and volunteers safe so they can continue to care for everyone who depends on us for care, for COVID-related illnesses as well. only for illnesses and emergencies not related to COVID.
In Southlake, 79% of the hospital’s intensive care beds were occupied as of Monday.
Wearing masks, hand washing and physical distancing will help avoid canceling surgical procedures at a time when Southlake’s ability is already a challenge, hospital spokeswoman Kathryn Perrier said.
Mackenzie Health’s intensive care capacity is 87% full, a spokesperson for the hospital said in an email.
“It is important to note that the increase in the overall burden of COVID-19 in our hospital is having more impact than our intensive care capacity. It also affects our ability to perform planned procedures and surgeries and our ability to provide the level of care we want to continue to provide to our community.
It’s not just the number of patients requiring hospitalization that is of concern to hospitals, but the number of cases circulating in the community, said Dr. Karim Kurji, York Region’s medical officer of health.
Kurji said he worked closely with the three hospital presidents and that they suggested this joint statement as another strategy to try to get the message across to the public.
“Overall, the public was pretty compliant, but the numbers were still going up,” he said.
The numbers peaked about four days ago and it’s having an impact on hospitals, with more patients in need of care, more in ICUs (not all York Region patients) and more staff from health contracting the virus as well.
Kurji said the capacity of the hospital was of paramount importance when it came to whether the province would lock the region out or not.
Like many institutions, health workers in hospitals – and paramedics in particular – catch COVID-19 in the community, he said.
As the number of cases in the community continues to rise, so too does the risk of health care providers or their family members falling ill, requiring isolation, and reducing the number of paramedics. and health workers available to help.
This leads to additional strain on the system, he said.
York Region released the latest charge count in its ongoing COVID-19 campaign on Tuesday evening, announcing that 61 charges had been laid against residents and businesses between November 20 and December 6-18 issued by Public Health, two by the City of Aurora, 11 by the City of Markham and 30 by the City of Vaughan.
Kurji recommended to York Region council last month that increased enforcement and education could help the region push back a lockdown by the province, but said he was unlikely to avoid it altogether. .
“I tried to buy time because I felt that the measures taken would lead to a reduction in the number of cases,” he said. “These are very difficult decisions and right now we have everything in the balance when it comes to which province is probably recommending intervention.
“Our numbers will be the ultimate decision maker. If our numbers continue to drop over the next few days it might save us a bit more time, but I think our leeway to request more time is dwindling day by day.
In the meantime, and until the vaccines arrive, Kurji said it was extremely important to reduce the number of cases to reduce the impact on hospitals and deaths from COVID-19.