Niagara Health is cautiously starting to resume elective surgeries and procedures as of Tuesday, May 25, starting with day surgeries and other outpatient procedures and moving to inpatient surgeries later in the week.
“This is terrific news for our patients and teams,” says Lynn Guerriero, President and Interim CEO at Niagara Health. “We understand the impact the postponement of scheduled surgeries and procedures have had on our patients, their families and caregivers, and our teams are working full out to safely reintroduce these services.”
Niagara Health postponed non-emergent and non-urgent surgeries and procedures in April as per provincial direction to ease pressures on bed capacity and allow redeployment of staff and physicians from the surgery program. Earlier today, Ontario Health announced that this directive has been rescinded by the Chief Medical Officer of Health, clearing the way for hospitals across the province to resume surgeries and procedures as able based on capacity and resources.
Niagara Health will gradually reintroduce these services to ensure we have the resources to respond to current ICU pressures while being able, if needed, to rapidly respond to increases in COVID-19 activity in the hospital.
“Although our teams are eager to reintroduce these services and address our backlog, we will need to be cautious and innovative with our efforts,” says Dr. Johan Viljoen, Chief of Staff at Niagara Health. “Thankfully, hospitalizations and ICU admissions appear to be trending downward. However, our ICUs continue to be under significant pressure from patient volume and staffing perspectives.”
Today, we are caring for 45 COVID-19 positive patients, 23 of them in the ICU. Our Level 3 ICU capacity in St. Catharines is 186%. At the height of the third wave, we dedicated two inpatient units at the St. Catharines Site for COVID-19 patients – Units 4A and 5B. By the end of this week, we expect to transition to 4A as the sole dedicated COVID-19 unit. Our critical care team also continues to care for seven COVID-19 patients in the post-operative recovery area at the St. Catharines Site, where we opened 12 additional Level 3 ICU beds.
The gradual approach allows our staff and physicians who were redeployed to critical care to return to the surgery program as the need for ICU care lessens. We are currently at 40% capacity with surgery volumes and anticipate being at 100% capacity by the end of June contingent on an ongoing reduction in COVID-19 activity.
We know patients will have questions about their scheduled care, and they should contact their surgeons directly for information on timing for their surgeries and procedures.
“We’d like to acknowledge each and every member of the Niagara Health team for carrying out critical tasks to manage the provincial critical capacity crisis and support the needs of our patients and teams in a multitude of other important ways,” says Lynn. “More than ever, it is important that our exhausted staff and physicians have an opportunity to rest so they can begin to recover from the pandemic. This will be a key part of our planning for the summer.”