KHSC issues notice as influx of patients leaves hospitals ‘bursting at the seams’

Photo by Lucas Mulder/Kingstonist.

Kingston hospitals are currently preparing to accommodate an influx of patients as a surge in respiratory illnesses has led to an increased number of Ontarians seeking emergency medical attention.

As reported last week and confirmed by Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC) at the time, local hospitals are reaching capacity, but readying to accept more patients nonetheless. This comes as the Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) region is seeing a consistently high risk due to respiratory illness cases, according to the local Health Unit’s respiratory illness data. Kingstonist learned from anonymous sources that KHSC – which oversees the operations of many local hospitals, including Kingston General Hospital (KGH) and Hotel Dieu Hospital (HDH) – was poised to see the already-overstretched services at those hospitals stretched even further. Today, Monday, Dec. 11, 2023, KHSC has issued a public notice regarding the situation, further confirming this.

“The following is a message to #ygk and the 500,000 residents we serve across southeastern Ontario. As we enter the holiday season, we’re asking for your help,” the health-care organization stated in the notice posted to its social media accounts under the banner “IMPORTANT.”

The notice goes on to say that local hospitals are continuing to see patients with COVID-19 “as infection rates hold steady across our region.” KHSC sites are averaging approximately 15 to 20 COVID-19 inpatients per day, some of which require medical attention in the intensive care unit (ICU). Currently, KHSC hospitals have 17 COVID-19 patients as of Monday, Dec. 11, 2023, none of which are in ICU, however, the hospitals were caring for at least three COVID-19 patients in the ICU as of Friday, Dec. 8, 2023.

“Meanwhile, we’ve now hit peak RSV season and flu cases are beginning to rise in the area,” KHSC continues in its messaging to the public.

“To complicate matters, we’re already bursting at the seams. One day last week we had more than 580 inpatients, a near record. To help, we are opening non-traditional spaces to make sure that every patient who needs care can receive it.”

The organization stated that “a number of” the patients being admitted daily are children.

“We are adjusting many of our inpatient areas to make more room for the rising numbers of pediatric patients who are coming to us for help – both from our region, and from other areas in the province,” the notice continued.

“Meanwhile, our Emergency Department (ED) is also seeing high volumes of patients. Despite our best efforts, some patients are seeing longer wait-times in the ED for less urgent issues. We know it is frustrating, but we have to treat the sickest people first.”

The health-care organization noted this surge in patients is occurring in tandem with a “world-wide shortage of healthcare workers,” and that health-care teams at local hospitals are “often short-staffed and working hard to keep up.”

“Our HR team continues to recruit at a record pace, and while we are making some progress, qualified individuals are hard to find,” KHSC stated.

KHSC went on to explain there are some ways the public can “help us get through the next few weeks.” The following are the things the organization suggested:

  • Get vaccinated: before you head to a holiday event, make sure you have your COVID 19 vaccine or booster shot, and your annual flu shot.
  • Wear a mask: we know you don’t have to, but it sure would help. Remember to wash your hands frequently too.
  • Stay home if you don’t feel well: we all hate to miss those special holiday events when we’re under the weather, but staying home in your pj’s isn’t nearly as bad as sharing a virus with a vulnerable family member or friend.
  • If you have less urgent issues, consider other alternatives to care instead of the Emergency Department, that might be a better fit for your needs. Visit our website for more information about options available in #ygk.
  • Be kind: our staff and physicians are stepping up in every way imaginable, working as hard as they can to provide you with the best care possible, all while missing special holiday events with their own friends and families. We know they’d appreciate some kindness in return.

“We know we’ll get through this respiratory illness season together, and as we navigate the next few weeks we appreciate your support,” KHSC concluded.

“We wish you all a happy and healthy holiday season…and if you need us, we’ll be here, ready to serve.”

Kingstonist reached out to KHSC, inquiring about whether local hospitals are already over capacity, and whether the majority of respiratory illness cases being seen at hospitals locally are among pediatrics.

“We’re seeing high volumes of both adults and children, but KHSC has been asked to increase its pediatric inpatient unit to 120 per cent capacity to help accommodate the pediatric surge being seen across the province,” the organization said in an email to Kingstonist.

“We are now receiving pediatric patients from both across the region as well as elsewhere in the province.”

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