MHC has beds ready in case other regions need overflow support related to the pandemic

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MANITOULIN – The health care team at Manitoulin Health Centre (MHC) is getting prepared in case hospital capacity overflows in Ontario’s COVID-19 hot-spots, especially the Greater Toronto Area, and some non-severe patients have to move to smaller hospitals throughout the province, although MHC has not yet received any patients through this push.

“Hospitals such as MHC have been asked to be prepared to accept patients outside our usual region to assist in this effort,” the health centre stated in a press release.

Its aim is to both prepare for a surge locally, while also ensuring larger hospitals have the capacity to offer more-intensive care to Manitoulin’s most critical patients, who need more support than they can get on-Island.

So far, the pressures on southern Ontario hospitals has not necessitated transferring many patients to rural, Northern hospitals like MHC. The newly announced plans are in place so the province can adapt if the surge worsens in the future.

In case Ontario needs to access MHC’s resources to help provincial care efforts, the Island health centre has set aside eight surge beds on the second floor of the Little Current site to accommodate any extra patients.

This is the same number of surge capacity beds as the hospital first implemented last year when dealing with the unknowns of COVID-19’s first wave. The press release noted that MHC only expects to receive patients who do not have COVID-19.

The Mindemoya hospital has a total of 14 beds and Little Current has 17, plus the additional eight surge beds. Paula Fields, co-CEO of MHC, told The Expositor that there are opportunities for extra surge capacity beyond the eight beds if this becomes a necessity in the future. So far, most transfers have been to larger hospitals as opposed to small, rural hospitals, though this may change if the provincial situation worsens.

As part of the preparations, both hospital sites are on standby to accept  any patients who get transferred to the Island. The field hospital’s preparedness team is aware of the update, as are MHC’s community health care partners.

The COVID-19 situation in Ontario’s hot-spots is troubling, as record numbers of patients are currently in hospital with the illness and more than 600 people are presently on ventilators in intensive care, as of this past Monday.

“Bigger (hospitals) are filling up; I’m actually surprised it wasn’t any sooner in the GTA. I’m grateful we’ve had more time to prepare,” Ms. Fields said. 

When large numbers of COVID-19 patients seek help at health providers, this puts strain on some of the specialized services that larger hospitals can provide as more people are required to help out on the pandemic front.

By transferring healthier patients to smaller hospitals that have enough services to meet their needs,  larger hospitals can still provide more extensive care for patients whose needs go beyond the abilities of their local, smaller hospital.

All future transfers, if they come to pass, will follow MHC’s existing transfer protocol. This includes a direct hand-off between the referring physician and the one accepting the patient to ensure MHC could address the patient’s care needs. Only patients that MHC can support will come to the hospital.

“It is important that MHC does its part to ensure critical care capacity in the system, so that Islanders needing a higher level of care than what MHC can offer can get that care,” stated Ms. Fields and Tim Vine, the other interim co-CEO of the hospital, in the press release.

In order to help preserve the health system capacity both on-Island and throughout the province, MHC urges all Islanders to closely follow Public Health Sudbury and Districts’ guidelines—even if an individual has had their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

These guidelines include getting a vaccine as soon as one is eligible, abiding by Ontario’s stay-at-home order, washing hands frequently for at least 15 seconds, covering coughs and sneezes with one’s elbow or a tissue and immediately washing one’s hands, avoiding touching one’s face, limiting contacts and in-person interactions wherever possible, maintaining two metres of distance between others, wearing face coverings properly and staying home if one feels unwell.

Through the pandemic, MHC’s emergency departments at both sites are still open for emergencies. If anyone begins to feel unwell, they should visit the hospital, where they will undergo screening and must wear a medical-grade face covering. For immediate medical attention, call 9-1-1.

Anyone who is concerned that they have been exposed or are at risk for exposure to COVID-19 should call the assessment lines at either site: Little Current, 705-368-2300; or Mindemoya, 705-377-5311.