Amid a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH) in Barrie, Ont., has had to transfer 50 patients to other hospitals and has accepted more than 60 Greater Toronto Area (GTA) transfers over the last two weeks, according to a local hospital official.
The hospital’s intensive care unit is also full and the health centre has activated its “critical care surge plan,” which allows for the creation of 19 additional critical care beds, RVH CEO Janice Skot told reporters Wednesday.
The hospital is currently operating three COVID units and its 70-bed pandemic response unit, a field hospital in RVH’s parking lot.
“This has been a punishing third wave, pushing many hospitals close to the breaking point, facing a situation we’ve never seen before and frankly didn’t ever want to imagine,” Skot said at a press conference.
“The crisis is real, the crisis is here in Simcoe Muskoka.”
Skot said there’s currently 32 COVID-19 patients at RVH, 12 of whom are in critical care and nine of whom are breathing through a ventilator. She said those numbers have eased since the weekend, when RVH had 61 COVID-19 patients, 18 of whom were in critical care.
“Six weeks ago, we had a total of three COVID patients and one in the ICU,” Skot said. “That is how fast the situation has worsened.”
Patients who have been transferred out of RVH have been sent to hospitals as far as Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, Owen Sound, as well as an emergency overflow unit in the Toronto Congress Centre, Skot said.
“Meanwhile, 16 home-care workers from across the province have volunteered to work at RVH, and we’re also bringing up 45 health-care students,” Skot said.
“The situation is that dire.”
Since there are no visitors at RVH and the clinics are closed, it may look somewhat quiet when one walks into the hospital, said Dr. Christopher Martin, the chief and medical director of RVH’s critical care unit and an emergency and intensive care physician.
“When you go to the COVID ward, [respiratory] ward or if you come in the ICU, you see a wide range of people who are struggling to breathe, who are in isolated rooms by themselves,” Martin said.
“They’re scared … Our youngest patient in the ICU is 38, and we’ve had lots of patients in their 40s.”
Martin said COVID-19 is “very random” and almost like “Russian roulette,” where one person in a family may not catch the virus but another family member will contract it and end up dying.
“I think that uncertainty in younger people is what the fear is and why people should get vaccinated,” he said.
Skot said RVH needs the community’s help when it comes to continuing to follow public health guidance.
“If ever there was a time for us to double down on adherence to safety measures, this is it.”