Over the past week we have seen several people with COVID admitted to QEH. Most of these patients were admitted for conditions other than COVID; however, these admissions still require more nursing resources than others, even if their COVID symptoms are mild. This has appropriately raised questions regarding how we are planning to handle an influx of patient admissions over the next few weeks. Even though PEI has a very high rate of vaccination, there are still thousands of unvaccinated Islanders who are at much higher risk for serious illness and will require hospitalization and while the vaccines have remained very protective against Omicron, at least some fully vaccinated people will also need to be hospitalized.
Our pandemic plan has always called for us to create more bed capacity at QEH, especially in areas where we plan to care for COVID patients. We can do this in two fundamental ways: we can move current inpatients to other parts of the hospital or to other facilities, and we can decrease admissions by decreasing non-essential services which will free up staff as well as beds. Scaling back ambulatory services will also enable us to free up staff to be able to work in other areas.
We have been very careful not to scale back too quickly or too much. We have learned from other waves in other parts of the country that this has to be done thoughtfully and strategically as every service we slow down can lead to unintended harm to patients needing those services.
Our Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) discusses these options every day and we are planning roughly half a week ahead at a time.
Tonight, we will be continuing to decant inpatients from Unit 3 to other areas to free up beds for potential admissions and we expect to take further steps to free up bed capacity over the coming days.
In terms of moving patients to other facilities, we have created a provincial inpatient bed map that will allow us to think of our hospital beds from a system perspective, rather than just by facility. In the past we have looked for beds in other facilities during serious overcapacity situations; however, during this COVID wave, we will be doing this every day. If we need to, we will move patients to different facilities. We know this is disruptive to patients and families and will try to do this as little as possible.
A final word about our pandemic plan. It was created early on the pandemic and many things have changed since then. We are frequently revisiting our plan and changing what needs to be changed as we get more information about the pandemic and Omicron, and as we work with frontline staff across the system to learn what is or isn’t working.
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