In difficult times, such as what we are experiencing with the exponential spread of the Omicron variant, I find it helpful to start with a reflection of gratitude. It has certainly been a challenging year of multiple pandemic waves, each having unique impacts on our personal and professional lives. But through it all, our community, our partners and our OSMH team continues to respond with care and compassion.
The demands on the healthcare system over the year have been relentless, and yet I see examples every day of people rising to the challenges or just lending a shoulder in support of one another. The sense of community within and outside the walls of OSMH is profound, and I thank our team, our many partners and citizens for their ongoing support.
Going into the New Year, we are going to need the ongoing support of our community as our largest challenges have yet to come. We are preparing ourselves for the scenario that the healthcare system will not be able to keep up with the growing demands.
As we see exponential growth of Omicron case spread across the province and our community, it has numerous effects on health care needs. Although it is yet to be determined if Omicron is more or less severe than other variants, the sheer volume of positive cases will inevitably translate into more Emergency Department visits and more hospitalization. We have already begun seeing this trend locally and anticipate it to grow.
There are other associated health needs that correspond to this COVID surge. Demands for COVID-19 testing have exceeded capacity and our booking systems are full. We are doing our best to accommodate urgent requests but that is not always possible. We are asking the community to reserve the use of testing centres for those that truly require testing and avoid coming to the Emergency Department for the sole purpose of COVID testing. We anticipate more information regarding the prioritization of testing to come from public health.
Compounding the increase in health service demand, we are seeing a decreasing availability of healthcare workers. Like the rest of the community, we are seeing increased COVID exposures in our teams despite best efforts of prevention. This leaves fewer people available to come into work. We are doing our best to make sure all urgent and emergent care remains accessible, but we ask for your patience as it may take a bit longer.
I also want to acknowledge the impact our current visiting restrictions are having on everyone. It’s difficult for patients and their loved ones to be apart, especially over the holidays. We understand that and look forward to a time that we can welcome visitors back with open arms. For now, unfortunately, the risks simply outweigh the benefits. Saying no to visitors isn’t an easy task and it takes an emotional toll on our front line staff too. I ask for everyone’s kindness when these difficult conversations occur.
Serving our community is a privilege and our team does it so well…. almost to a fault. The OSMH team is so busy caring for others, we sometimes forget to care for ourselves. It means the world to everyone at OSMH to have the support of our community so please let them know if you get the chance.
So I will leave you with my holiday wish list as we enter into a new year…
Please continue to follow the recommended public health measures, including vaccination with 3 doses.
Please avoid any unnecessary visits to the hospital, particularly for access to testing.
Please be kind to each other. We are one Community.