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KHSC transferring patients out to make space for COVID-19 patients

A multi-patient unit from York Region Paramedic Services waits outside Kingston General Hospital on Wednesday, Apr.21, 2021, to unload COVID-19 patients who will receive care at the Hospital. Photo by Daniel Tastard-Homer.

In front of Kingston General Hospital and on the shore of Lake Ontario, a flurry of activity continues to take place as patients from COVID-19 hotspots in eastern Ontario are transferred to Kingston for treatment.

There, ambulances from Ornge, Toronto, Durham, Lakeridge and York Region – including the above multi-patient unit from the latter – have increasingly delivered patients on a near-daily basis since the fall of 2020. And as the pandemic has reached its third and most tumultuous wave thus far, the scene has become all the more common, as Kingston residents have begun to associate helicopter activity with incoming COVID-19 patients.

A patient being transferred into Kingston by an Ornge helicopter in early April 2021.Photo by Logan Cadue.

And on Tuesday, Apr.20, 2021, Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC) began a new practice as part of its work to combat COVID-19 in Ontario: For the first time, four patients were transferred out of Kingston to “make room for COVID-19 patients from harder hit regions, such as the Greater Toronto Area,” KHSC said.

“These patients require the specialized, acute and critical care that is offered at our Kingston General Hospital (KGH) site,” said Kristen Lipscombe, Strategic Communications Advisor for KHSC.

Since Monday, Mar. 1, 2021, KHSC has received 60 COVID-positive patients from outside the southeastern Ontario region, 45 of which have received treatment in intensive care unit (ICU) at KGH. The other 15 patients have been on the acute medical floor, according to KHSC.

As of 10 a.m. Tuesday, Apr. 20, 2021, there were 44 COVID-19 patients being cared for in Kingston, 43 of whom came from outside southeastern Ontario. Of those 44 patients, 34 were being cared for in the ICU, and 10 were being cared for on KHSC’s COVID medicine unit.

By 10 a.m. in Wednesday, Apr. 21, 2021, the total number of COVID-positive patients at KHSC had risen to 46, with patients being dropped off in Kingston throughout the day.

“KHSC continues to support patient transfers from other areas. We continue to monitor the situation daily and adjust our units as needed so that we can keep accepting patient transfers, while ensuring there are enough appropriate beds available for everyone who needs hospital care,” KHSC said in an email to The Kingstonist.

According to Dr. Michael Warner, a practicing intensivist and Medical Director of Critical Care at the Michael Garron Hospital in Toronto, a record number of COVID-19 patients were moved in Ontario on Wednesday, Apr. 21, 2021: 36 COVID-19 patients in ICU were transferred a total of 5,151 km. Data Warner shared on Twitter suggests a further five patients were to be moved out of KHSC sites that day, with four patients coming to the KHSC ICU at KGH the same day from the Scarborough Health Network. KHSC confirmed earlier this month that its ICU is stretched beyond capacity.

“On the same day we are contacting people who have acquired #COVID at ‘essential’ workplaces such as make-up, cookie and toy factories,” Warner said in a tweet.

The day before, Tuesday, Apr.20, 2021, saw 27 patients transferred throughout Ontario.

“We are now seeing ‘Critical Care hopscotch,’” Warner tweeted that day. “GTA #COVID patients are going to Kingston, but Kingston must offload patients to Brockville & Ottawa (OH East) to make space. This is very concerning. Options are running out.”

Still, for its part, KHSC said it will continue to work with hospital partners across the province to “address the unprecedented number of patients with COVID-19 filling hospital beds across Ontario.”

“We are grateful for our dedicated staff members who are stepping up daily, demonstrating dedication to providing high-quality health care to all patients, regardless of where they are from as we battle the third wave of this pandemic,” KHSC said.

KHSC is expected to begin releasing data on its hospital and ICU capacity due to COVID-19 daily. Kingstonist will provide that information when it becomes available.

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