To help with the provincial burden of COVID-19 patients needing intensive care, Windsor Regional Hospital and Erie Shores HealthCare are putting a pause on non-urgent, elective procedures as of 12:01 a.m. Monday.
Non-urgent, elective procedures at Windsor-Essex hospitals are again being postponed to prepare for a surge of provincial COVID-19 patients requiring intensive or high-level care.
Windsor Regional Hospital president and CEO David Musyj said on Friday that this latest ramping-down measure must be taken due to a new provincewide directive, based on the projections of Ontario Health and the provincial COVID-19 Science Advisory Table.
“It’s a provincial health-care system. Our beds in Windsor-Essex are provincial beds,” Musyj emphasized.
“We have to help out the rest of the province.”
According to Windsor Regional Hospital, most of the postponements involve non-urgent surgeries and diagnostic scans.
The pause will be in effect starting 12:01 a.m. Monday. The hospital will contact patients in advance if their appointments are affected.
Erie Shores HealthCare in Leamington is also affected by the directive and will put an identical pause on non-urgent, elective procedures.
The third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is striking Ontario hard while hospitals are still dealing with second-wave patients, Musyj said.
Ontario Health predicts COVID-19 patients requiring hospitalization in the province will double by the end of the month: From 1,417 as of April 7 to 2,881 by April 30.
Similarly, the number of COVID-19 patients needing intensive care (currently 523 province-wide, as of April 7) is expected to rise by hundreds in the same time frame.
The Science Advisory Table projects there will be 774 COVID-19 patients in ICUs across the province by April 30, even with the provincial stay-at-home order in effect.
Ontario Health, meanwhile, projects almost 1,000 COVID-19 patients will be in ICUs by April 30.
“The projections have been pretty darn close to the actuals (to date),” Musyj said. “There’s no reason not to accept what is being projected here, and the concern that this raises.”
Musyj also noted that the third wave is involving more patients under 60 than ever before in the pandemic.
Windsor Regional previously paused non-urgent, elective surgeries in December, during the pandemic’s second wave in Ontario.
The hospital resumed such procedures in mid-February, tackling a backlog that is expected to take 18 months to clear.
An estimated 240,000 elective surgeries have been postponed provincewide since the start of the pandemic. Windsor Regional has postponed approximately 6,000 so far.
Musyj said he understands Friday’s announcement must be frustrating for those locals who may be dealing with postponement of their non-urgent procedures for a second time — or even a third time.
“Yes, it’s painful to be postponed again. But these are life and death decisions we are dealing with. We’re trying to keep people alive.”
Musyj asked those waiting to put themselves in the situation of those in more dire need. “God forbid if it’s their loved one who needs a critical care bed or an acute care bed for COVID, and it wasn’t available for them.”
“Please recognize: This is in the best interests of our society to do this…. By doing this, we are saving lives across the province.”
Dr. Wassim Saad, the hospital’s Chief of Staff, said the current local plan is to continue cancer procedures as scheduled. The cancellations concern “anything that would be deemed non-urgent or non-priority.”
However, Saad warned the exemption regarding cancer procedures could suddenly change under provincial direction. “I can tell you there are other hospitals in the province that have gone to only life-and-limb procedures — that’s all they’re doing.”
Unlike many other parts of the province, Windsor-Essex has yet to see a steep rise of COVID-19 cases in the third wave, and the region’s hospital system is currently below total adult ICU capacity.
A presentation by Musyj showed that “we have capacity to handle not only what is projected for us, but also possibly what is outside the region.”
For Musyj, that means it’s time for the Windsor-Essex hospital community to step up for other regions.
“We have to support our colleagues across the province, just like they have supported us in the past, when we were struggling in August,” Musyj said.
“The shoe is on the other foot right now. And we have got to be there for the province.”
Musyj said that from a wider, provincial perspective, Ontario is in a much worse position in the third wave than it ever was during the second wave.
Musyj also warned that the SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern could have “more to come” for Windsor-Essex.
Regarding when elective procedures will resume at Windsor Regional Hospital and Erie Shores HealthCare, no set date is possible.
Musyj said he is hopeful it will be a matter of “weeks, not months.”
“But at the same time, we are in the midst of a pandemic. We have to be able to respond to the needs of the day. And the most urgent need is making sure there is bed capacity for COVID-positive patients not only locally, but provincially.”