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Quinte Health Update to the Community

We are seeking the community’s ongoing support for our local health care teams who continue to go above and beyond, in very challenging circumstances, in order to serve their patients and community.  

Ontario’s health care system is facing a very challenging fall/winter season.   We are experiencing a dramatic increase in demand for hospital services stemming from the combined impact of ongoing COVID infections, the early return of high rates of seasonal respiratory illnesses, staff absences due to COVID infection and health human resource shortages.   This fall has seen a significant increase in Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) in children, creating substantially higher paediatric related emergency department (ED) visits and hospital admissions at both community and specialty children’s hospitals. 

While our teams have worked exceptionally hard to maintain access to hospitals services and address pandemic related surgical backlogs, Quinte Health’s four hospitals are not immune to these provincial trends and their impact on our hospital operations, our teams and our community. 

We are currently operating at 135% of our funded adult medicine capacity and 135% of our paediatric in-patient medicine capacity, translating into immense pressures at each of our community hospitals.  Paediatric visits to the ED in October is up by 20% compared to last October, with a 40% increase in the number of children between 4 and 10 years of age.  These extreme pressures have resulted in extended emergency department wait times, delays in transfers between hospitals and from the emergency departments to an in-patient bed. 

Delayed care from earlier waves of the pandemic, ongoing outbreaks in our local long term care and retirement homes and a severe shortage of home care and primary care in our communities are resulting in a steady increase in ED visits, increased admissions and persistent challenges in transitioning patients back to community for care.  Your local hospital remains the fail safe for people from across our communities, requiring Quinte Health to rapidly adapt to the changing environment and to partner broadly to support our community. 

Our Actions

In anticipation of these challenges, Quinte Health initiated a series of actions this summer to proactively prepare, plan and implement measures to mitigate the impact to our community.   

The following highlights some actions underway:

We are working hard to preserve hospital capacity so there is access to care when our community needs it the most.  We are working with Ontario Health and local health partners on programs so people have another option for care instead of the hospital, and we are working to support timely hospital discharges. 

We are working with local and regional partners, including partner hospitals, to collectively manage the enormous demand for hospital services. 

We are working with local and provincial government on strengthening our local health system and addressing equity issues associated with access to primary care, community care and hospital services.&nbisp;

We acknowledge our community partners for the collaborative spirit they have exhibited and for sharing in the efforts to find solutions to a health care crisis that spans well beyond the hospital corridors. 

Supporting and Stabilizing the Quinte Health Teams  

We have implemented assertive recruitment and retention strategies in the most competitive recruitment environment we’ve ever faced.  Year to date, Quinte Health has added an additional 85 clinical staff members to our local health care teams, including 25 nurses.  Despite this success, there is still a considerable gap in Quinte Health’s health human resources given the considerable growth in patients and beds in operations (56% increase). 

Support programs for front line and leadership teams that recognize and help mitigate the successive impact of the pandemic and current working conditions on the people and teams at Quinte Health. 

Engaging our physician leaders and teams to develop innovative ways to serve our community, given the ongoing resource issues. 

Recognition and retention strategies focused on retaining existing staff and physicians.

Improving Access to Care 

Targeted actions to improve patient access to care delayed by the pandemic, with a focus on diagnostic imaging and surgery.

Despite human resource shortages, the surgical program has been diligently working to reduce the surgical backlog. As of October, the percentage of patients exceeding wait time targets is down to 15.5%. This compares to the provincial rate of 52%.

87% decrease in the significant mammography backlog created during the pandemic shutdown – from a backlog of 3171 patient requisitions for mammograms to 390. 

We Need Your Support

The Fall/Winter is expected to create a historic level of demand on Quinte Health hospitals. 

We are requesting the following from our communities:  

Let’s create healthier communities together.   We all play a role in prevention and we can all make a difference.  If you feel sick, even with mild symptoms, please stay home.  If you have symptoms, including when you are recovering from illness, wear a mask to protect others.  Wear a mask indoors, especially in social settings with the most vulnerable – older individuals, children under 4 years of age and those with underlying medical conditions.   Wash your hands frequently and clean high-touch surfaces often.  Get your flu shot and stay up to date with the COVID vaccine.  Save the Emergency Department for emergencies – for non-urgent conditions try your primary care provider, a walk-in clinic or virtual care for non-emergency medical assistance.  Click here for a helpful infographic created by the HPE Ontario Health Team in partnership with HPE Public Health and Quinte Health. 

Support your local health care teams in terms of acknowledgment at every opportunity.  The individual hospital staff member or physician is not responsible for what ails the current system.  We understand how frustrating it can be to wait.  Please be kind and let them know how important the work they are doing is to all of us.   

We are remarkably proud of the Quinte Health team, and the incredible work they are doing.  The support of the community is a great source of inspiration for the staff and physicians at all four of our hospitals.  

Sincerely,

Stacey Daub, President and CEO

Dr. Colin MacPherson,  Chief of Staff

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