Note from Michael, Feb. 4, 2022 | An Omicron Check-in

From the desk of Dr. Michael Gardam, Health PEI CEO

Hi Everybody:

It has been a week or so since our last COVID update. This note is going to be partially made up of “leftovers” i.e., things we have sent out before, but I am getting word that it might be helpful to send them around again. So in the spirit of “cleaning out our Health PEI fridge”, here goes. 

1.    We are doing well. All things considered, we have responded to this surge of COVID-19 cases very well. We all know what a fragile state our healthcare system is in and the fact that you have responded to this challenge in such a remarkable way is amazing. I don’t know how much thanks you are hearing directly from Islanders, but I want you to hear it from me that you have been fantastic.

2.    We have revised our response plan. Based on the experience over the past two years in other provinces, we have significantly revised our plans to include the following:

  1. COVID-19 cases do not need to all be cared for at QEH. We have reserved Unit 3 at QEH for patients who require medical admission because of their infection, i.e. they are sick with COVID. Since this wave began, we have cared for COVID patients in mental health facilities, in long-term care, on the maternity ward, and at our other hospitals. The key deciding factor whether a patient goes to QEH or not is whether they require specific treatment for their COVID. Most of these patients were admitted to these other facilities for other reasons but became infected while admitted. They have not been particularly sick with COVID and were detected as we did ward screens looking for additional cases. We have shown repeatedly that we can do this safely and it means less patient movement and allows them to get the care they need for their primary diagnosis. 
  2. We have had to scale back some procedures to provide us with more capacity. This has largely impacted our patients requiring eye surgery, endoscopy, orthopedic surgery, and to a smaller extent our other surgical services. I am thrilled to report that we will be able to imminently reinstate the ophthalmologic surgery and my hope is that if current trends continue, we are able to follow that with restoring all of our other surgeries within the next 1-2 weeks. Next week, rather than preemptively postponing surgeries, we will be monitoring our capacity constraints and making decisions about rescheduling on a 48-hour basis. We monitor this very closely and are trying to make the bare minimum of service reductions that we can achieve to allow us to have more capacity in the ICU and in our main EDs. 
  3. Masking continues to be important for everyone: Masking has played a role since the beginning of the pandemic, but some of our protocols around masking for visitors and patients have changed. Recently, we implemented a new practice where people wearing a medical mask or N95/KN95 do not need to change masks in hospitals, health centres or other care areas, excluding LTC. People wearing a cloth mask should still be given a medical mask. Visiting or supporting someone in one of our facilities is a privilege, which is why we can deny entry to those who do not follow our guidelines, including masking guidelines. Patients arriving to receive healthcare must be admitted, even if the patient cannot wear a mask. We must ensure the receiving department is aware, so a plan to safely permit the patient to access their services can be implemented. 

1.    We have had some outbreaks. This was 100% predicted. To me, the key point is not that we have had them, but that we have been able to control them so well. Contrary to my experience two years ago in Toronto, where COVID-19 rapidly spread to both patients and staff, our outbreaks have been small and very well contained. Kudos to all of you who have been working on our outbreak units. This leads me to my next point…

2.    We know how to control this. Having experienced the first wave in Toronto, what we are experiencing here is nothing like what I saw two years ago. Now we have ample supplies of PPE, we have repeatedly shown that our PPE works when used correctly, we have drugs to treat patients who get sick, and most importantly we have incredibly effective vaccines. Controlling COVID-19 is more and more feeling like how we control other respiratory viruses, the only key difference is that we do not have such a huge surge in cases of influenza each year. 

3.    We are likely through the worst of this. I expect our hospitalizations and the number of outbreaks to slowly decrease over the coming weeks. Now that the circuit breaker has been lifted and kids are back in school, it remains to be seen whether we will see an uptick in community cases over the next month. I don’t think we really know with certainty what to expect, but I for one am glad that schools are open. The reason the future is so murky is because we don’t know what proportion of the population has been infected with Omicron. The more who have been infected already, the less we can expect any significant surge in cases, and I am hopeful that we will not see a big increase in cases. That said, now that our testing approach is stable, we will be able to easily detect an uptick in community cases and that will predictably let us know what to expect in terms of hospitalizations. 
 
My last point is that I want to acknowledge how tired and frustrated we all are. I know personally, I sometimes have to remind myself to be patient and not take my frustration and fatigue out on others. A little kindness goes a long way. Better days are ahead.

Please send questions, comments, or submissions for these notes to emclean@gov.pe.ca, subject line “Notes for Michael”.

Last Updated
Fri, 02/04/2022 - 15:10