As Saskatchewan grapples with a resurgence of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, several patients being treated for COVID-19 are being transferred from that province to Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC) in Kingston, Ontario. These transfers are being conducted by the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) under Operation LASER, the Forces’ coordinated domestic response to the pandemic.
The province of Saskatchewan is being especially hard-hit by the most recent wave of the pandemic. It reported that 11 more of its COVID-19 patients had died on Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021, bringing the total provincial death toll from COVID-19 to 843, with a total of 237 new COVID-19 cases that day.
Saskatchewan hospitals are currently treating 260 COVID-19 patients, with 58 of those in Intensive Care Units. Due to resource capacity limits, three COVID-19 patients have been transferred to Ontario.
“At this point, KHSC has received three patients from Saskatchewan,” says Elizabeth Bardon, Incident Commander at Kingston Health Sciences Centre. Bardon says they don’t know exactly how many patients will ultimately be transferred from Saskatchewan, but that the hospital is well prepared for this as a result of past experience accepting out-of-region COVID-19 patients from the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).
Bardon says that during the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, KHSC played a crucial role in “load levelling” across Ontario hospitals — an approach that saw patients transferred from hospitals in areas with surging COVID-19 cases, such as the GTA, to others across the province. Over the course of wave three, KHSC received over 140 COVID-19 patients from the Toronto area, says Bardon.
“So, we have both the expertise and also we can handle the acuity” as a result of that experience, says Bardon. “As an academic hospital, we can care for the sickest patients… We certainly are busy, we have lots of other patients from across the region, but we still do have capacity here,” she says.
Bardon says that, along with all of the medical expertise hospital staff have, one of the other things she’s most proud of is the compassion and empathy demonstrated to these patients who are “essentially alone, many miles away from loved ones… That’s a really stressful situation for everyone,” says Bardon. “We are grateful to staff who help patients connect by phone, support visits through iPad connections, so they can see and talk to their loved ones.”