Published On: October 27, 2022
St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital (STEGH) continues to deal with staffing concerns and high occupancy rates, meaning a shortage of beds and longer emergency wait times.
With flu season around the corner, STEGH does not anticipate these challenges to subside any time soon. In fact, the approaching winter months could make the situation worse.
“We are still seeing an increasing number of patients with COVID-19,” says Karen Davies, President and CEO. “Today, we have 27 patients in hospital with COVID-19. That’s significantly more than we’ve had the past few weeks. We are experiencing a system under pressure across our entire region. Many of us are functioning with critical staffing levels while also addressing an increase in patient volumes with respiratory illness, including COVID”.
The hospital is over capacity in all areas, including the paediatric and Neonatal Intensive Care Units. The anticipated rise of non-COVID respiratory illnesses such as colds and the flu will make the coming weeks very challenging. High occupancy rates mean admitted patients are staying in the Emergency Department longer, which further increases wait times for others.
“Our Emergency Department is seeing more patients who have high acuity and a greater level of complexity,” says Craig Watkin, Vice President Patient Services and Chief Nursing Executive. “This is likely due to the lengthy duration of the pandemic. People may not have been able to access care or they have been delaying seeking care, so they are coming in sicker, often requiring admission to hospital. Increased wait times, staffing shortages and even emergency room closures are unfortunately continuing to be a major issue across our region.”
STEGH is turning to the community for help and encouraging residents to seek alternate options for non-urgent care, rather than the Emergency Department. Alternate options include contacting a family doctor, visiting a walk-in clinic or urgent care centre, or contacting Health Connect Ontario by calling 811, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to get health advice from a registered nurse.
Residents are also urged to mitigate their personal risk of contracting a respiratory infection, by wearing a mask in public areas, minimizing exposure to those who may be ill, staying home if sick, and getting a flu shot.
“I am extremely proud of our teams that are working day and night to care for those who need us most. This is a very difficult time and our staff are to be commended,” says Davies. “I’d like to thank our community for their continued support, cooperation, kindness and patience.”