As part of South Bruce Grey Health Centre’s (SBGHC) preparations to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, the hospital is taking steps to create new capacity to care for COVID-19 patients.
SBGHC has designated the Acute Care Units at the Kincardine and Walkerton sites as the dedicated COVID-19 Units for the organization’s four hospital sites.
“Evidence is showing that having separate units to manage patients with COVID-19 is an important first step, allowing for distinct separation of patients that do not have COVID and may be at higher risk for serious symptoms,” says Angela Stanley, Vice President of Clinical Services and Chief Nursing Executive.
Transfer of all non-COVID patients from the Kincardine and Walkerton hospitals to available beds in Chesley and Durham began on Friday, April 3, and continued through the weekend. As of Monday, April 6, all medical patients that require admission for reasons other than COVID-19 will be admitted to Chesley or Durham.
The designated COVID-19 Units will be operated in Kincardine and Walkerton until the demand becomes too high, and it is no longer possible to keep all COVID-19 patients at these two sites, at which time Chesley and Durham will also start to accept respiratory patients in designated spaces.
In addition, over the last three weeks, SBGHC has been working to reduce the occupancy of patients inside the hospital. Working with the support of patients and families, LHIN discharge planners and long-term care homes, SBGHC has discharged as many patients as possible to create capacity in the hospital.
“Currently our patient volumes are quite low,” says Michael Barrett, President and CEO. “We have not started to see a surge of critical illness in our area yet, but it is imperative that SBGHC is prepared to support patients in our communities if and when it does.”
In addition to freeing up existing beds, SBGHC is also opening up new beds across all four sites to increase the capacity of the hospital even more. SBGHC has the ability to increase the number of beds at all of our sites because there is a considerable amount of space that has not been used as patient care space for many years.
In 1998, SBGHC had over 180 beds, while today only 66 beds are staffed and operated. Steps are now being taken to convert some of that former patient care space back into areas for beds. And should the need arise, plans are being prepared to use non-traditional patient care areas, such as cafeterias and meetings rooms, to care for additional patients.
“To respond to the anticipated demands of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are increasing our bed capacity at all four of our sites.” explains Barrett. “These new beds will open should the COVID-19 situation escalate and more bed capacity is required.”
SBGHC’s normal capacity across the organization’s four sites is 66 beds – 18 beds in Chesley (10 Seniors’ Centre of Care, 8 Acute), 10 Acute beds in Durham, 17 Acute beds in Kincardine and 21 beds in Walkerton (15 Acute, 6 Obstetric).
SBGHC is working with the Provincial COVID-19 Command Table, and the regional group of hospitals in the South West LHIN, to confirm the number of new beds that SBGHC will be required to open. This decision will be dependent on the number of COVID-19 cases in Grey Bruce requiring hospital care. With the internal changes which have been implemented, SBGHC has 16 new beds ready to go, and can open another 29 new beds should the situation escalate and these beds are required.
It should be emphasized that SBGHC is prepared to staff these additional beds should the need arise, but they will not be opened and staffed until there is a demand for them.
SBGHC is also working to ensure it stays aligned with the County of Bruce and the Grey Bruce Health Unit on their development of Recovery Centres in Kincardine and Hanover. These Recovery Centres would be used if the capacity of the hospital is exceeded.