Record number of new hospitalizations | Critical situation “

At a time when more than 11,600 workers are absent from the health network, the number of new hospitalizations is reaching new heights. In the past week, no fewer than 1,160 people infected with COVID-19 have been admitted to hospitals, more than at the height of the second wave.

Ariane lacoursiere

Ariane lacoursiere

Coralie laplante

Coralie laplante

For comparison, 930 new admissions were registered from January 3-9, 2021.

All age groups have seen a record number of new hospitalizations in the last week, except those aged 80 and over, for a total of 1,396 people hospitalized so far.

Consequence: hospitals will have to ditch the burden. CHU Québec, for example, announced Sunday that its operating room activities would be reduced to 56%. “And this is not really the only hospital in this situation,” says the president of the Quebec Association of Emergency Medicine Specialists, Dr. Gilbert Boucher.

In Quebec emergencies, the number of visits has decreased in recent days. Before Christmas, 9,000 patients came a day. We’re not around 7,600 anymore, says Dr. Boucher. “This drop is attributable to confinement. People are doing less activity, ”sums up Dr. Judy Morris, president of the Association des Médecins d’Urgence du Québec. But on hospital floors, “COVID units fill up quickly,” says Dr. Boucher.


Emergencies at the Cité-de-la-Santé hospital, in Laval

At the same time, a growing number of healthcare workers have to take time off, as they are infected with the virus. “And we expect it to get worse in the next few days,” says Dr. Boucher, who is concerned about the situation because the staff on site “has dropped.”

According to the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MSSS), currently 11,602 health workers are absent. At the height of the first wave of COVID-19, there were 12,000 of them in the same situation.

We can say that the situation is still critical. Because there is a lack of workers. Makes an explosive mix. We do load shedding. We have to move COVID patients from one facility to another because we lack space.

Dr. Judy Morris, president of the Quebec Association of Emergency Physicians

Moved from hospital

Johanne Bastien is one of the COVID-19 patients who had to be transferred. It was presented on December 20 at the Suroît hospital in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield. The woman, who already had precarious lung disease, had undergone a rapid test that declared her positive for COVID-19.


Johanne bastien

“He was already undergoing treatment for bronchitis, then he did not react at all to the treatments, he had a high fever,” says his daughter, Maryse Robitaille.

Supported in the Suroît hospital, Ms Bastien had to be intubated in intensive care on December 25. That day, Ms Robitaille was informed that her mother would be sent to the Honoré-Mercier hospital, in Saint-Hyacinthe, “because in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, there were not enough staff”. [et] There were beginning to be too many COVID patients, ”explains Ms. Robitaille.

Therefore, Johanne Bastien was transferred to intensive care at the Honoré-Mercier hospital, an hour and a half from her home. Since then, the patient has awakened from the artificial coma she was in. Maryse Robitaille hopes that her mother can be transferred again to the Suroît hospital when her health condition allows it. “But it spills everywhere. So we hope there will be room in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, ”she says, saying that she is particularly grateful to the healthcare workers. “They’re really overwhelmed, but they don’t make you feel like they’re [le sont] She says.

Limit vacations for certain workers

In some regions of Quebec, the staff shortage is so severe that we are considering resorting to ministerial decree 2020-007, which allows forcing full-time work, limiting vacations and allowing the dismissal of workers, that is, transferring employees. from one sector to another.

In the CISSS of Laval, the spokeswoman Judith Goudreau confirms that “this week will begin to implement certain measures of the ministerial decree.” These measures will only apply to services “where the rate of absenteeism linked to COVID is high,” explains Ms Goudreau.


Hospital Cité-de-la-Santé, in Laval

The MSSS emphasizes that “many establishments have submitted plans under [l’arrêté ministériel] 2020-007 ”, a measure classified as a“ last resort ”. “Although we come from all over Quebec, we can still see more difficult situations in certain regions,” says MSSS spokesperson Marie-Claude Lacasse, speaking in particular of the Montreal and Capitale-Nationale regions.

Dr. Morris explains that the return of this ministerial order was feared.

It always hits hard. What I find sad is that it still puts the burden on the same people. About staff already exhausted, about to abandon ship.

Dr. Judy Morris, president of the Quebec Association of Emergency Physicians

“The effect on the team is immediate,” wrote on Twitter Dr. Joseph Dahine, an intensivist at the Cité-de-la-Santé hospital and medical director of the CISSS in Laval. “I have a lot of people crying. It is extremely dehumanizing. Please, let’s think of another solution. ”

Another sign that the staff shortage is significant, the CISSS de l’Outaouais announced on Monday that the Saint-André-Avellin municipality emergencies would be temporarily closed from January 5 to 28. Saint-André-Avellin emergency personnel will go to the emergency department of the Papineau hospital in Gatineau, where many employees are missing.

The next decisive weeks

If the situation continues to be difficult in hospitals, it will be necessary to watch closely how the situation will develop in the coming weeks. Because in other countries, the number of COVID-19 cases has skyrocketed with the Omicron variant before falling just as quickly, notes Dr. Boucher. Will this be the case in Quebec?

“We hope so,” he said. Dr. Morris said, however, that more than 15,000 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in the province on Monday. And this is just the tip of the iceberg, as detection does not provide a true picture of the situation.

“And it takes about two weeks before serious cases reach the hospital… We hope that new cases will decrease with current measures. But we will have to look in the next few weeks to find out, ”he said.

In intensive care, the situation remains under control for now. There are currently 162 people. By January 2021, this number had risen to 231. “When it comes to the number of intensive care beds, we still have room for maneuver,” says Dr. Germain Poirier, president of the Society of Intensive Care Workers of Quebec. The staff shortage does not skimp on intensive care. But according to Dr. Poirier, the situation is more tense on the floors, where the number of hospitalized patients is multiplying and where there is a shortage of staff.

Hospitalized for, or with?

Health centers are trying to refine their data to find out how many COVID-19 patients are hospitalized for this disease and how many have COVID-19 but are hospitalized for another reason. The president of the Association of specialists in emergency medicine of Quebec, Dr. Gilbert Boucher, however wishes to clarify that no matter what disease a patient is treated for, if he is positive for COVID-19, more staff will be needed. “In COVID units, you need twice as many staff. And we don’t have a lot of staff anymore, ”he says. Dr. Boucher also points out that the Omicron variant infects many people. “Out of the large number of people affected, people end up very sick,” he says, especially concerned about the unvaccinated. The latter hopes “that the population will continue to respect health measures and that we will see a decrease in cases in the coming weeks.” Otherwise, “it will be like in the Sherbrooke region before Christmas: difficult,” he says.

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