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A Message to the Community from Joseph Brant Hospital President & CEO Eric Vandewall — April 29, 2021

Joseph Brant Hospital photo.

MAYOR MEED WARD’S TAKE:

Many residents have asked why Joseph Brant Hospital’s Pandemic Response Unit (PRU), currently serving as a vaccination clinic, hasn’t converted to COVID-19 patient care. Eric Vandewall, CEO of Joseph Brant Hospital, answers that question, and provides an update on hospital capacity and vaccinations to date.

Part of his answer is: “… while our PRU is a well-equipped and robust temporary short stay field hospital space, it does not replace conventional inpatient beds in the hospital. The PRU was designed for individuals who are medically stable, presenting mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms, who require additional supports before they are ready to return home.”

Please see his full statement below (or via this link: A message to the community from Eric Vandewall, President & CEO – April 29, 2021).

Joseph Brant Hospital photo.

April 29, 2021

This week, I would like to take the opportunity to address an increasing number of questions we have been receiving from the community with respect to the field hospital located at Joseph Brant Hospital (JBH), known as the Pandemic Response Unit (PRU).

Since March 12, 2021, in response to the urgent need to vaccinate as many people in our community and protect high-risk individuals from the COVID-19 virus, Joseph Brant Hospital began operating a Halton Region Vaccination Clinic in the PRU. The PRU’s flexibility in design allowed us to quickly mobilize the PRU to serve this purpose, using our skilled staff onsite to administer the vaccines. To date, we have vaccinated over 16,000 individuals in our community and will continue to immunize prioritized groups established by Halton Region.

At the same time, daily news reports convey the troublingly high number of new COVID-19 cases across the country. It is important to remember the heartbreaking stories behind those numbers. At JBH, we feel every single loss. With each loss, we know that there are so many families, friends and colleagues in immense grief.

In Halton, we continue to see high numbers of new COVID-19 cases and it is too soon to determine if we have reached the peak of this third wave. In terms of our hospital’s capacity, today JBH is at 91% capacity. We are currently caring for 28 patients with COVID-19 – 16 of these patients are in Intensive Care Unit (ICU). In recent weeks, the total number of patients (COVID-19 and non-COVID-19) in our ICU units has ranged on average from the low 20s to as high as 29. We have the capacity to surge to 32 patients in ICU if needed.

Understandably, given the dire situation, we have been asked why we continue to use our PRU as a vaccination clinic and why it is not being used for COVID-19 care to help manage patient overflow in regional hospitals dealing with record numbers of COIVD 19 patients.

I hear you and I understand your concerns. While I do not wish to minimize the seriousness of the situation, I would like to provide further context and explain where we are today.

Vaccination is a critical step to reducing the spread of COVID-19 as well as to keep people healthy, safe and well. We stand ready to mobilize the PRU back to providing patient care within 24 hours if additional bed capacity is required. That decision cannot be made solely by JBH. The decision to open the PRU to care for patients is a decision made at the regional level – at the HNHBB (Hamilton, Niagara, Haldimand, Norfolk, Brant and Burlington) Regional Incident Management System (IMS) table. The PRU was intended to be used when all conventional space in hospitals was exhausted across the region, as a “safety valve”, to relieve pressure on conventional hospital beds and to ensure there is sufficient capacity to care for COVID-19 mild  to moderate patients who are on their way to recovery and to return home. Hospitals continue to respond internally to the growing demand for ICU care and we are seeing more mobile response units constructed to help expand capacity. The point of requiring the PRU for patient care has not yet been reached.

Since the beginning of 2021, JBH has accepted 50 inter-regional patient transfers, including patients from the greater Toronto Area (GTA). All of these were serious cases placed in available ICU and acute care beds on designated units in our hospital. The most appropriate place for these individuals was to be located in conventional hospital space. Many of these individuals required ventilation and constant monitoring for a deterioration in their condition. In addition to using all the available space in our hospital to care for these patients, we have been able to increase the number of ICU beds up to 32. This has been done by reviewing our health human resources and placing all available healthcare staff in roles to support staffing these additional ICU beds, as a result of our surgical ramp down. I am incredibly proud of all of our team members, including those who have been redeployed to support the provision of comprehensive and compassionate care to our patients.

In conclusion, please understand that while our PRU is a well-equipped and robust temporary short stay field hospital space, it does not replace conventional inpatient beds in the hospital. The PRU was designed for individuals who are medically stable, presenting mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms, who require additional supports before they are ready to return home.

If the decision is made to mobilize the PRU back to providing medical care, we can make that happen in short order, relocating the vaccination clinic to an alternate space onsite. Every day we are working closely with our regional and provincial health partners to monitor the evolving situation, assess risk and determine the need for PRU capacity.

Finally, please continue to follow the guidance of medical experts and public health officials. If you are eligible to get vaccinated, doing so keeps you and your loved ones safe, and brings us one step closer to making our communities safer. If you have vaccine concerns, talk to your doctor or please seek out credible sources of information like Halton Region and the Province of Ontario. I also encourage you to follow JBH on our social media channels to stay up-to-date on the latest news and information from our hospital.

Thank you again for your continued support and understanding during these challenging times.

RELATED LINKS:

PLEASE NOTE: To stay updated on what the City of Burlington is doing regarding COVID-19, please visit the dedicated pages burlington.ca/coronavirus (and subscribe) and bit.ly/mayormeedwardCOVID19updates, and our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page — bit.ly/COVID19BurlingtonFAQ that are updated as new information becomes available.

A consolidated page for information and updates on the work of the provincial Ministers’ COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force is available at bit.ly/COVIDVaccineUpdates.

Halton Region has also created a dedicated COVID-19 Vaccine webpage at halton.ca/covidvaccines for up to date information on the status of our COVID19 vaccination program.

A Burlington COVID-19 Task Force has been created to help support our community through this unprecedented emergency — updates will be provided at burlington.ca/COVID19taskforce.

To report an incident of non-compliance with provincial emergency orders, please contact the Halton Regional Police Service COVID-19 Hotline: 905-825-4722.

We’ve also created a dedicated page to feature the local organizations and businesses that have inspired us during the COVID-19 pandemic by taking action to support our community in new and creative ways — head to bit.ly/covidwallofinspiration.

HELPFUL RESOURCES & RELATED LINKS:

*Posted by John Bkila, Mayor’s Media and Digital Communications Specialist

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Media Specialist: John Bkila
john.bkila@burlington.ca
905-335-7600