Montreal’s acute-care health network is being hit harder by COVID-19 now than during the first wave of the pandemic, says the chief of the intensive-care unit at Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital.
The main difference between the first and second waves is hospitals today have far fewer nurses and respiratory therapists available to treat a growing number of patients, Dr. François Marquis told the Montreal Gazette. What’s more, overwhelmed Montreal hospitals were able to transfer COVID-19 patients to off-island centres during the first wave, but that’s no longer the case.
“Actually, I would say it’s is already worse,” Marquis said. “If you’re talking about the whole system, the second wave is much, much worse than the first wave. During the first one, the challenge was getting the machines and getting the medication. But we had a lot of staff.
“Now, we have all the equipment we can dream of, but we don’t have anyone to help the patients,” he added. “I cannot clone a nurse. I cannot clone a respiratory therapist.”
Faced with rising COVID-19 cases, Montreal hospitals are planning a next phase in contingency plans. The Jewish General Hospital is considering transferring some of its cardiac patients for surgery to the Montreal Heart Institute, and may use a garage to accommodate a potential overflow of emergency-room patients.
Meanwhile, the COVID-19 positivity rates at three testing centres in the west end of the city are ranging between 18 and 25 per cent.
“We’re now hit, I would say,” Dr. Lawrence Rosenberg, executive director of the centre-west health authority, said of the impact on the Jewish General.
“In the last week, it really took a jump precipitously. The trend is not encouraging.”
A total of 60 patients were hospitalized on Monday afternoon for COVID-19 at the Côte-des-Neiges hospital, with 19 receiving intensive care (and one was only 19 years old). That’s double the numbers from three weeks ago
“We still have capacity. We just have to be more selective with the type of surgery we’re doing now,” Rosenberg explained of the impact on non-COVID patients.
“We’re giving priority to cancer surgery, we’re giving priority to heart patients who need to be operated on more urgently. We’re prioritizing people with vascular disease so they don’t lose a limb, and even some neurosurgical patients who may need a spinal decompression. We’re very sensitive to that.”
But should COVID-19 hospitalizations ramp up, “we have an arrangement with the (Montreal Heart) Institute to move some of our heart patients there because they have lots of capacity,” he added.
At the McGill University Health Centre, 59 patients were hospitalized for the pandemic illness, and 23 were being cared for in its ICUs. The MUHC’s Royal Victoria Hospital has taken the unprecedented step of transferring some of its post-operative patients to the pediatric intensive-care unit of the Montreal Children’s Hospital.