Hamilton Health Sciences to ‘ramp down’ some procedures next week


Published December 31, 2021 at 5:32 pm

Come Tuesday, Hamilton’s largest hospital network will begin to curtail some treatments, as it tries to relieve “immense pressures” created by the spread of the Omicron variant.

A memo to Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) employees from president and chief executive officer Rob McIsaac, that was also posted online on Friday, details how the the 11-facility network is reacting to Omicron. McIsaac said “extraordinary measures” will be enacted in the midst over 400 HHS staff members self-isolating due to COVID-19 concerns.

Starting on Jan. 4, procedural and scheduled care within HHS will be ramped down, per direction from Ontario Health. Asymptomatic staff with a negative rapid antigen test (RAT) who are isolating at home are also going to be called back to work, and staff from ambulatory areas will be re-assigned to support inpatient care.

Cancer and pediatric programs will receive priority, MacIsaac stated.

“This will allow us to divert resourcing, including health human resources, to areas of greatest need. We will continue to provide time-sensitive care and surgical activity in our cancer and pediatric programs will proceed as normal,” he said.

The memo noted that HHS has been handling emergency department volumes that sometimes exceed pre-pandemic volumes. It has also seen an increase in the number of patients transported in by ambulance.

Another factor HHS is dealing with, as the CEO acknowledged, are outbreaks. The City of Hamilton COVID-19 tracker shows that seven of the listed 31 active outbreaks in the city are in HHS settings. There are also two linked to St. Joseph’s Healthcare. (Hamilton’s public health unit has ceased declaring outbreaks in private workplaces.)

On Thursday, HHS appealed to staff who are vacation, or are casual or part-time employees, to work extra hours. It is also offering “premium payments above and beyond collective agreement and policy requirements” to staff who work unscheduled hours over the next few days, through to to the Jan. 4-5 night shift.

MacIsaac added that the testing process for physicians and staff is going to be further enhanced, and they will be prioritized for PCR testing.

“I am incredibly grateful to those who have stepped forward in the last 24 hours to offer extra time and support, and to those who are already putting in extended hours to care for our patients,” he stated.

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