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Letter to the Community – Feb. 11, 2022

Cautious optimism.   That is my standard response when asked for my opinion on the current trends with COVID-19.  It balances the tension between our very strong desire to return to the regular activities that have been put on hold, while acknowledging that COVID-19 remains among us.

Let’s discuss the reasons for caution.   Based on the tests currently being performed, positivity remains high at 13% across the province and at our Couchiching Assessment Centre.   Translated, that means for every eight tests we perform, one comes back positive.

At OSMH, we are still seeing ongoing exposures to COVID-19 with our team, with anywhere from 20-30 individuals off at any one time due to COVID-19 infection.   We continue to see admissions for COVID-19 through our emergency department and at the time of writing this letter, patients with COVID-19 related illness represents 40% of our intensive care unit capacity.

Despite these findings, signs of stability are emerging.   Wastewater analysis across the provinces shows the quantity of COVID-19 circulating in the community continues to drop.  The overall trends in COVID related hospitalizations and intensive care demands are improving.   We are able to manage within our current capacity and will be able to resume scheduled surgeries and procedures as of Monday.   It will be a gradual restart, starting first with patients requiring day surgery and we hope to be back to full capacity as soon as possible.   Those affected by surgical cancellations will hear directly from their care provider for rescheduling as surgeries resume.

We are also revisiting our visitor restrictions and will share more details next week as we gradually welcome back more caregivers.   We recognize how essential caregivers are to the recovery process and look forward to seeing more in the organization.  Your ongoing patience with our gradual reversal of visiting restrictions is very much appreciated as we continue to operate at capacity and space is at a premium in our facility.

At this point in the pandemic, optimism must be balanced with caution.  It is completely understandable to want all restrictions to be lifted effective immediately.   We anticipate that decreasing restrictions may cause a small but manageable increase in transmission.    The guidance from Ontario experts like the COVID-19 Science Table will help guide the reopening to help find that balance and maintain our optimism.

So what can we all do to keep moving in a positive direction?  Vaccination remains our most effective strategy to tip the scales towards optimism.   That includes getting all doses that you are eligible for to reduce transmission and almost eliminate serious illness related to COVID-19.   Vaccine eligibility is expanding, particularly as we learn more about the continued safety and benefits in all age groups.   Please refer to the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit website for the most up to date information on criteria and vaccine availability.

Let’s collectively choose optimism as One Community.   Optimism breeds kindness and we can all benefit from more kindness right now.

Carmine Stumpo, President & CEO

Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital