COVID-19 patients arrive from GTA
Windsor Regional offers to treat people from hot spot who aren't critically ill
Daily ambulance runs to transfer COVID-19 patients to Windsor from overwhelmed Greater Toronto Area hospitals are being considered after the first two GTA patients arrived last Thursday night.
Windsor Regional Hospital was notified Thursday, April 15 that it was needed to receive the patients. Essex-windsor EMS sent two ambulances that picked up the patients, who were in stable condition, and brought them to the hospital's Met campus.
Hospital and EMS officials here are not revealing which hospital in the GTA the patients came from, citing privacy.
Driven by more contagious and virulent virus variants, COVID -19 cases are surging in the GTA, where hospitals have been flooded with patients. The biggest concern is that intensive care units are reaching capacity.
Hundreds of patients have been transferred to other hospitals across Ontario.
While Windsor Regional has capacity for the patients, including in its ICU, it doesn't have a helipad, so critically ill patients can't be flown here, and it takes too long to transport them by ambulance.
It would also take an ORNGE ambulance, used to transport critically ill or injured patients, out of service for too long when hundreds of patients need to be moved.
So Windsor Regional has offered to take new COVID-19 patients, who are not yet critically ill and are stable, to help free up capacity in GTA hospitals. EMS here has offered to transport them.
“We said, `Let's look at this through a different lens,' ” said Windsor Regional Hospital CEO David Musyj. “How can we help, because we have the capacity?
“Patients who can travel in EMS, are more stable and don't require critical care or ORNGE — our EMS can go pick them up and bring them back.”
Some patients transferred to Windsor are expected to end up in the ICU here later. With the virus variants making people sicker, 25 per cent of COVID-19 hospital patients end up in the ICU.
“Any patients we take will help them (hospitals in the GTA),” Musyj said. “They'll have less patients they have to care for.”
It's not known how many patients from the GTA Windsor Regional will be asked to take.
But the hospital and EMS are proposing sending at least one ambulance to the area every morning to be ready to transport patients instead of waiting to be called.
“We know these hospitals are very busy,” said Musyj. “Let's have a Windsor-essex truck (ambulance), or two of them, drive up there every morning, park outside the emergency department and wait for a patient.
“There isn't a shortage of patients who need care from the GTA,” he said. “The projections are staggering.”
Ontario's COVID -19 science table is projecting 18,000 new cases a day in Ontario without adherence to stronger public health measures announced Friday. The province is expected to have 1,500 patients in its ICUS by mid-may, regardless of the new measures and vaccination.
Hospital occupancy has jumped 67 per cent in the last two weeks, and ICU occupancy jumped 51 per cent.
“The goal is to take away the bureaucracy, take away the loss of time,” Musyj said. “Every day, we know you're going to have patients who are going to need to be moved. Why not have the ambulance there?”
The proposal would also allow EMS to plan for how many ambulances and paramedics are needed.
Additional vehicles and staff would be used for the transfers, said EMS Chief Bruce Krauter.
“We're not pulling from in-service resources, so the community is not going to be impacted,” he said.
The government would reimburse the cost of the transfers.
No agreement on the proposal has been reached yet. The province must approve all patient transfers.
EMS confirmed in less than half an hour Thursday that it could send the two extra ambulances to the Toronto area.
Windsor Regional called the families of the patients transferred here before they had even arrived to tell them that their loved ones were being brought here and who they can contact at the hospital. The doctors caring for them will call the families every day.
“In addition to the stress of being in the hospital, some of these people might never have been to Windsor,” said Musyj.
There isn't a shortage of patients who need care from the GTA. The projections are staggering.