Catching up from the third wave of the pandemic and tending to the city’s growing population led to Guelph General Hospital’s busiest month ever in August.
“What we're seeing is not just that increase in demand because of population growth, but also because what we believe is the pent-up demand as a result of the last 19 months of the pandemic where people have either had their care delayed because of the closures in hospitals or the closures of their family doctors, and also they may have not sought care because of the pandemic,” said Gavin Webb, the hospital’s chief information officer and vice president of finance.
This August, the hospital had 4,503 patient days, last August it had 4,242, In August 2019, it was 3,881 and in 2018, the previous highest month, the number of patient days was 4,424.
One of the measures the hospital uses to calculate how busy it is is by counting the number of patient days, which is the number of overnight days a patient is in the hospital.
The number of patients are only counted In the medical and surgical units. The numbers do not include patients in the childbirth program or the functional planning units.
Webb said the hospital began to see a growth in patient days a few years before the pandemic began and it all comes down to the growth in the city's population, particularly the older population which tends to use more health resources.
The hospital has 30 more beds open than it did before the pandemic began.
“That also makes it possible to have more patients,” said Webb.
As of Thursday, Guelph General had four COVID patients.
“We've been sort of hovering around two to three four patients the last couple of months, there hasn't been a lot of COVID in-patient activity in this wave,” said Webb.
He added that the high vaccination rate in the city makes a big difference. Currently, 89 per cent of Guelph’s eligible population is fully vaccinated.
“The fact that the people in our city have done a phenomenal job of following public health rules through the pandemic and getting vaccinated. It makes a huge difference,” said Webb. “We have COVID in the community, but they're not getting sick enough to come to the hospital.”
During provincial lockdowns, Webb said the hospital went through a series of lulls where fewer people sought health services and the hospital itself was not running at full capacity and rather only for urgent cases only
Webb said the hospital has unfortunately had to use hallway medicine, used at a time when the emergency department is at capacity and there needs to be space made for people who are going to spend the night in the emergency department.
“If we have to put anybody in the hallway it's the healthiest patients that end up in the hallway, the ones that can ambulate themselves or get out of bed and go to the washroom on their own,” said Webb.
“It is nothing like what we experienced before the pandemic, where we had a fair number of hallway beds set up before. For that, we really are working hard to avoid that at all costs.”
Webb said the hospital's current focus is to increase staff so it can begin catching up on delayed surgeries from the third wave.
“We have as many medical beds open as possible,'' said Webb. “We're working hard to get our hospital fully staffed so we can operate all of our beds. And then really it is being ready for what comes our way, and being able to adjust to be nimble around what that might look like.
“Our staff come to work every day and do phenomenal work. We want to put up a kudos to them for providing high quality care during very challenging times that we've been in, we're still in and we've been going through for the last 19 months.”
Webb said last year was a light flu season and this year, it comes down to if people continue to follow public health measures and take safety precautions by socially distancing themselves, wearing a mask and keeping their hands clean. He said the hospital is always prepared for the flu season.
“In the wintertime, there's an increase in general illness, not just the flu, but there are other things that happen in the wintertime that cause people to come to hospital,” said Webb.