Hamilton hospitals are preparing a strategy to handle an overflow of patients if a second wave of COVID-19 occurs.
Hamilton Health Services and St. Joseph’s Healthcare are joining with hospitals in Burlington, Niagara, Haldimand, Norfolk and Brant (HNHNBB) to prepare the plan to ensure ongoing stability of the health care system throughout the pandemic, particularly during times when there may be a surge and increase in cases of COVID-19.
“It is our hope that transmission rates in our region remain low, fluctuations will be managed with current hospital capacity, and that the regional strategy will not need to be activated,” says Rob MacIsaac, President and CEO, Hamilton Health Sciences, and Chair, Regional CEO Committee for HNHNBB. “However, creating this type of approach is critical to our pandemic response plans and to ensure that we are prepared for any potential surge in COVID cases.”
The hospitals are developing a coordinated, evidence-based, and equitable approach to caring for COVID-19-positive patients requiring hospital care in the HNHNBB region. The goal of the Regional COVID-19 Model of Care Strategy is to accommodate fluctuations and a potential second wave of COVID-19, resulting in increased demand for COVID-19 care while minimizing any potential disruption of scheduled, regional, and community care across the region.
All hospital emergency departments in the region will support and provide care for persons under investigation for COVID-19. Patients who do not require hospitalization will be discharged and receive follow-up care as determined by their care team.
Patients who test positive and require hospitalization will be cared for at Hamilton General Hospital, St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, Joseph Brant Hospital in Burlington and the St. Catharines site of Niagara Health.
Norfolk General Hospital and Brant Community Healthcare System will continue to provide local COVID-19 care, and may transfer COVID-19 positive patients as needed to designated hospitals.
As part of the strategy, Joseph Brant Hospital’s Pandemic Response Unit (PRU) will be a regional resource to provide care for COVID-19 patients, should the need arise. The Pandemic Response Unit is an external all-season field hospital structure at Joseph Brant Hospital in Burlington. It is designed specifically to care for stable COVID-19 positive patients who have mild to moderate symptoms and require care and support that cannot be provided at home. For example, they may require oxygen therapy and medication, as well as ongoing monitoring of their symptoms and some personal support.
As admitted patients who are transferred to another hospital recover from COVID, they will either be discharged home with community supports as needed, or they will be transferred back to their community hospital for ongoing care as soon as possible. Although some patients may not be cared for in their community hospital, support for virtual visits and engagement of family/caregivers will be provided.
Moving forward, hospital leaders will continue to refine the plan, working with EMS and other partners and in coordination with Ontario Health (West Region).