If you were to drive by Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital (OSMH), you might not notice anything different. There are no visible signs of the third wave of this pandemic that is out of control in this province with dangerously high rates of hospitalization and need for intensive care.
Make no mistake. The dire predictions made weeks ago have now come true. This pandemic is having significant impact on the healthcare system across this province. We are all responding in different ways to get us through what is going to be a very challenging spring.
So what is the impact on OSMH? Three pandemic waves and over a year living with COVID precautions have taken a toll on the physical and mental health of our community. Our Emergency Department continues to see a steady volume of urgent care needs. We are open, we are here for you, but we are busy.
We have expanded our hospital inpatient capacity to accommodate these needs. We have opened 25 beds on top of our regular complement of inpatient beds and that is still not enough. For the past few weeks, every bed has been occupied. We are working tirelessly to provide effective care and help people get back home where they want to be but everything right now seems to take a little bit longer.
What makes this wave different? We are now seeing COVID variants of concern being the dominant strain of infection. They are more likely to cause serious disease requiring intensive care. That is precisely what is transpiring in hot spot areas like Toronto, Peel, York and now the Simcoe region. Locally, we have seen an increase in COVID cases. At our Couchiching COVID-19 Assessment Centre, we have seen the percent of testing coming back positive increase from less than 1% to 4% in a matter of weeks. A greater proportion of these cases require hospitalization and we have begun accepting transfers again from our region and the Greater Toronto Area in support of our partner hospitals. We will continue to do our part locally and provincially to get through this pandemic.
The need for additional capacity has prompted the Ontario health system to collectively ramp down non-urgent surgical activity. Individuals will be contacted by the clinical and scheduling staff to advise those affected on next steps. We offer our sincerest apologies to all those waiting for a surgery or procedure who are impacted. We appreciate you have waited already and we will do everything we can to restart scheduled surgical activity as soon as possible.
Surgical cancellation allows us to redeploy our most precious resource, our people. We have the most flexible and resilient staff who continues to rise to the occasion in the face of this prolonged pandemic with true Soldiers’ Spirit. We are continually assessing how to best use our staff to support the health and wellbeing of our community within our walls and with our partners at the Couchiching COVID Assessment Centre and the COVID Immunization Clinic.
We have been successful in our response to COVID to date using teamwork across multiple organizations, sectors and community as our strength. Now more than ever, we need to come together to do our part. Our community is such an important part of our team. We need to continue the difficult but necessary public health measures associated with the stay at home order. We want to encourage as many people as possible to get vaccinated as soon as you qualify to receive. Finally, we need to be kind to each other as many individuals, households and businesses struggle through this wave.
We can see the finish line of this pandemic over the horizon with mass vaccination efforts. We will cross the finish line together, as one community.
Carmine Stumpo, President & CEO
Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital