March 11th marks the two-year milestone in the pandemic, and today people are feeling more optimistic about the future
On most days, all 276 beds at Queensway Carleton Hospital (QCH) are occupied, the Emergency Department is overflowing with patients and everywhere he looks, Dr. Andrew Falconer, President & CEO of QCH, sees a hospital in full-capacity operation.
Despite the hardships, overcrowding, and sickness caused by the pandemic, hope is in the air and it is due in part to the pandemic easing towards endemic status.
“In the last wave, we had more patients than any other wave – 95 people battling COVID-19 in a 276-bed hospital. Many staff were off sick, and we had (and still have) a very exhausted workforce. There were surgical cancellations because we needed the capacity. Delays in diagnostic procedures also caused anxiety for the community,” Dr. Falconer says.
“But now, we’re gradually resuming services, we’re resuming diagnostics and we’re ramping up surgical activity. There’s a renewed sense of hope.”
Hope has also come with the addition of 15 new bed bays adjacent to the Emergency Department. QCH has one of the highest volume emergency rooms in Ottawa. The project, funded entirely with the support of the community, was triggered by the pandemic. Due to long wait times and overstretched resources, “hallway medicine” was a reality. Now, the hospital is better able to manage high volume periods with the new bed-bay area.
Another innovation is a two-year project to upgrade 11 surgical suites to address a backlog of surgeries. The upgrades, none of which are covered by government funding, include improvements to operating room lighting, monitors, cameras, cabling and surgical equipment. The project will be completed this summer and needs ongoing financial input from the community.
“I feel we’re privileged to have a very strong relationship with our community. Our entire staff is very grateful to the community for their support, right from the first wave. There were donations of food for staff, financial contributions and even drive-by parades. The community support of the new bed bays and surgical suite upgrades are a huge boost to morale,” he notes.
Yet, as the hospital – and the wider Ottawa community – emerges from the grips of COVID-19, some of the hospital’s critical issues now need to be addressed, whilst others have increased in urgency. In both cases, Dr. Falconer says the support of the community and generous donors is more important than ever, to get the hospital back on track.
“As we come out of the fog created by the pandemic and look ahead to a new ‘normal’, the hospital will focus on getting back to basics. We must ensure our staff recover from the demands of the pandemic and remain with us so we can continue to provide the exceptional care you’ve come to expect from QCH.”