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COVID-19: Guelph hospital ramping down elective surgeries, increasing ICU capacity

Like all other hospitals across Ontario, Guelph General Hospital is ramping down elective surgeries as it increases capacity to treat COVID-19 patients in its intensive care unit amid a spike in cases.

As of Monday, the ICU’s 10 beds are full, with just under half being treated for the virus. However, officials said more beds will be available as surgeries are postponed.

Urgent and emergency surgeries are still going ahead, but procedures such as knee and hip replacements are being postponed.

“Physicians and surgeons are working together to do that assessment of who can wait and who cannot wait for their surgeries,” said Melissa Skinner, vice-president of patient services at Guelph General.

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She said the hospital will go down to about 30 per cent of its usual surgical activity. For example, they had 10 surgeries scheduled for Monday, but eight of those were cancelled.

As of right now, it’s not known when elective surgeries will continue, but Skinner said last year it took until June to ramp them back up after they began postponing at the end of March.

“We’re crossing our fingers that it’s not going to be like that this year but we know that decrease in surgeries took a long time last year,” Skinner said.

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Four additional beds in its post-anaesthetic care unit should become available early next week. The hospital also has another two beds as part of the hospital’s surge plan, equally 16 beds in total for intensive care.

Skinner said the unit is not just for patients with COVID-19, but for others needing critical care.

“There are other people in our community who are ill and have been critically unwell enough to be there as well,” she said. “By expanding into the additional beds we will be able to look after both populations.”

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Skinner also applauded all Ontario hospitals for working closely together.

During the pandemic, Guelph General has been taking in patients from the Greater Toronto Area and hospitals in that region have been taking in patients from Guelph.

“This is a big team approach across all hospital from all regions to make sure hospitals can continue to do what they need to do,” Skinner said.

“It’s the most amazing display of teamwork.”

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