Hospital limits caregivers in ERs with surge in COVID patients

The census board in the emergency department at CEEH in April 2020

Care partners in Lambton’s ERs limited to one parent or helpers for critically ill, disabled, cognitively impaired

Hospitals in Lambton are seeing so many people coming to the emergency department with COVID-19 symptoms, it’s limiting who can accompany someone who is sick into the hospital.

Bluewater Health says 20 per cent more patients are coming through the doors of the Sarnia emergency department right now. The situation is similar at Charlotte Eleanor Englehart Hospital in Petrolia. In both areas, hospital staff is having a hard time maintaining the proper amount of distance between people in care.

So, the hospital is limiting the caregivers who can enter the ER.

Officials announced Thursday they are limiting one designated care partner to children and the critically ill, disabled or cognitively challenged patients only. Anyone else will have to come into the emergency department on their own.

In Lambton right now, there are 582 people ill with COVID-19. Lambton Public Health reported Thursday another 100 people had tested positive for the virus. Fifty people are now listed as recovered. There are three outbreaks in Lambton including one at Rosewood Retirement Village where cases have been reported among both staff and residents.

The rapid rise of COVID-19 cases fuelled by the Omnicron variant in Lambton County is similar to what is happening across the province. Today, health officials said there were 13,087 new COVID-19 cases reported in Ontario with the number of people critically ill with COVID-19 and in intensive care now at 200.

Scientists say the reported numbers don’t accurately reflect how many people now have COVID-19. There are almost 95,000 people waiting to hear the results of their tests right now and with 30 per cent of the people tested being positive, that could mean as many as 28,500 additional cases in the province.

The demand for testing in Lambton is high, even though it is taking some time for tests results to be returned. Sarah Milner is the executive director of the Central Lambton Family Health Team which runs the Wyoming testing center. She says about 100 people are tested at the drive thru station each day right now.

“We also have people that are desperate to get in, so they’re booking at multiple places, and then probably don’t realize the impact of not canceling if they’ve already had a test … then that fills up all the spots in Sarnia-Lambton pretty quickly,” Milner says noting 30 per cent of the spots booked are no-shows.

“When I worked out in Wyoming there was probably about 16 no shows which is unfortunate, because I know people are checking constantly to see if an appointment comes up or like comes available,” says Milner. People need only cancel online or email the Wyoming testing center and then others can book for those tests.

Milner adds the demand in Wyoming isn’t just from Lambton residents.

“We also have because of the demand for testing, particularly in London people are booking maybe week and a half, sometimes two weeks out, we’re getting people from all over right..We get a lot of people from Strathroy, we’ve had people come from Windsor, … it’s access to anyone.”

Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Keiran Moore is making an announcement this afternoon. Milner is hopeful he’ll provide some clear guidance about just who should be getting PCR tests at clinics. Right now, health care workers and those in long term care are being prioritized but anyone can still get a test at a clinic for anything other than travelling.