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Hospital prepared to take out of town patients

SAH staff might be told to prepare with 48 hours notice
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Sault Area Hospital. Darren Taylor/SooToday

Sault Area Hospital (SAH) has already taken in patients from elsewhere in Ontario as Thunder Bay has had a full ICU.

“This is a usual occurrence for surge capacity at any time – not just through the pandemic phases,” wrote Rose Calibani, SAH public affairs officer in an email to SooToday.

Now, with COVID-19 cases soaring in southern Ontario, the hospital may be required to accommodate patients from that part of the province at any time.

“Every day, our Critical Care leaders participate in a province-wide call that determines where ICU patients may go. To date, we have not received any patients from southern Ontario, however, we were notified late last week that we should be prepared to receive patients with 48 hours notice,” Calibani wrote.

“Our professional team in the ICU continues to be in a state of readiness and we are prepared to accept all patients who need our help. Our health care workers will continue to follow all infection control and prevention measures including the appropriate use of personal protective equipment to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”

As of 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Algoma Public Health (APH) reports there have been 288 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 47 active cases, one hospitalized case, 241 resolved cases and four deaths in Algoma residents.

Even as health care professionals scramble to administer vaccines, the province has set a new record for daily infections (4,736 cases), leading Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario's associate medical officer of health, to state Ontario's COVID-19 situation is "dire.”

Given the trend in the rising cases of COVID-19, effective Monday, April 12, Ontario Health directed hospitals to ramp down all elective surgeries and non-emergent/non-urgent activities in order to preserve critical care and human resource capacity. 

“At this time, the ramp down direction does not currently apply to the Northern Ontario Health Region, however, SAH is prepared to ramp down quickly should the direction change. We have not postponed any urgent or elective surgeries at this time,” Calibani wrote.

Despite the unprecedented nature of this pandemic, taking in patients from other communities is not something that would be entirely unusual.  

“Critical care beds are provincial inventory and we must be prepared to manage our volume and any unexpected events as they arise. This would not be new work with us but rather our everyday readiness to care for patients that need us the most,” Calibani wrote.

“Southern Ontario hospitals have been excellent partners in Sault Ste. Marie/Algoma patient care and taken all patients that have care needs that we would be unable to meet such as burn patients, trauma patients, heart surgery, most critical newborns as just a few examples. Ontarians are our collective patients and the integrated health system is specifically designed to get the right care for the right patient - wherever that may be in the province,” Calibani stated.

Darren Taylor

About the Author: Darren Taylor

Darren Taylor is a news reporter and photographer in Sault Ste Marie. He regularly covers community events, political announcements and numerous board meetings. With a background in broadcast journalism, Darren has worked in the media since 1996.
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