The end of August means ‘Back to School’ in more ways than one.
Orillia and surrounding areas have done a remarkable job coping and living with COVID-19 over the past 5 months. We enter into the next phase of the pandemic as our gradual return to normal, including the reopening of schools.
There have been understandable concerns from students, parents and employers about the new school year. Dr. Sarah Barker, a Paediatrician and a parent, who also serves as a Medical Director at OSMH has written a letter with practical advice and information for parents as their kids go off to school. This is an excellent example of how local experts like Pediatricians, Primary Care Providers and Public Health are working together to help our community navigate this new normal that has implications for both healthcare and education.
The end of summer also means a ramping up other activities around OSMH. We have seen a steady increase in activity in the hospital and are running at essentially full, pre-COVID-19 capacity. This summer has brought many visitors to our community who look to enjoy our great outdoors with activities such as hiking and biking. Unfortunately, that has come with additional trips to the emergency department and our operating room. We have seen a sharp increase in emergency surgeries while still to trying to address the backlog of waitlists for scheduled activity.
Our emergency department has also reverted back to pre-COVID levels as well. That has translated to OSMH running at approximately 90-100% occupancy. We have seen that health needs of our community persist and in some cases increase during COVID-19. We see the toll that physical distancing can take on individuals’ health and wellbeing and we believe that is contributing to more emergency visits.
We thank the community for your patience and ongoing support. So many have been kind and appreciative of the efforts of our staff and credentialed staff in supporting patients and caregivers. We are grateful to be part of such a great community.
Unfortunately, we have also seen an increase in aggressive behaviours at the hospital, particularly in the emergency department. We know COVID-19 has been difficult for many, however, I owe it to our team on the front lines to remind our community we will not tolerate any aggressive behaviours. We value compassion, but not at the expense of personal safety.
Back to school also means back to the spread of non-COVID-19 viruses such as influenza. As we turn our attention to the upcoming months, discussions are already underway with hospital, primary care, pharmacies, public health and other providers within the Couchiching Ontario Health team to double-down on our influenza vaccine campaign. Doing everything we can to keep people healthy has never been as important now and into the future.
We are about five months into the pandemic and everyone is getting a bit tired. And yes, there are a lot of asks. Please wash your hands, keep your distance, wear your mask, be safe in school, be kind to each other and plan to get your flu shot when available.
But there is so much at stake. We have done well so far. Why stop now?
Carmine Stumpo, President & CEO
Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital