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Grey Bruce Health Services implements pandemic plan

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Grey Bruce Health Services is suspending non-essential services and restricting access of most visitors due to the COVID-19 ongoing emergency.

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“We’re closing our doors to visitors unless under compassionate circumstances,” said Gary Sims, the president and CEO of the hospital corporation. “The vast majority are encouraged not to come to the hospital at this time.”

Those restrictions began Monday. “Some people were upset yesterday when they were turned away,” Sims said in an interview Tuesday.

Elective surgeries are being postponed and services and clinics will be temporarily suspended. “We do expect by the end of the week, we’ll have dates set for when we’ll be closing down most of those services,” Sims said

But all “urgent surgeries” will continue, the emergency departments are running as normal, and 24/7 care continues at all hospital sites, in Lion’s Head, Markdale, Meaford, Southampton, Wiarton and Owen Sound.

Some patients have already been notified of cancellations, either by their family doctor’s office or the hospital staff, who late Monday began phoning patients to inform them their appointments would be rescheduled or cancelled and the reasons why.

There are specialty and critical services, including dialysis and oncology, where staff need to figure out which patients still need to come and which could be postponed, Sims said. More details will be posted on GBHS’s website.

Tuesday the Ontario government declared a state of emergency and promised 75 more critical care beds, 500 more acute care beds, 75 more COVID-19 centres, more personal protective equipment, 1,000 more nurses and 50 more doctors to cover the emergency response.

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“It’s highly likely that should the pandemic get worse, that most hospitals in the province could get overloaded in their critical areas,” Sims said. “ As such, the provincial announcement today is helpful.”

His staff submitted answers to a provincial survey Tuesday concerning the corporation’s ability to open extra beds.

“And we do have that capacity here. As we decrease our non-essential services, it frees up some of our staff. So if the province has the dollars for us to open extra beds, should the need arise, we believe we could probably open a unit and staff it and take extra patients if we needed to.”

The hospital corporation has a pandemic planning process which includes the assessment centre, another part of it manages critical patients, and there’s a plan for patients inside the hospital who don’t require critical care services.

Sims said he’s “very proud” to be working with a staff such as his.

“I’ve got to tell you how hard people are working to do this work here in the hospital in the hospital anyway. I know across the province. Frontline staff, management, support services, physician leaders working very hard.”

Ten teams have been working on different aspects of this planning for almost the past month.

“These people are local folks, trying to prepare the best they can for the people they love and the community they love,” Sims said, before adding a word to the community.

“Please be patient and supportive because this could get a lot worse before it gets better. And we are planning for the worst and hoping for the best.”

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