Hamilton heart surgeries cancelled to make room for unvaccinated

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Hamilton General Hospital had to cancel all cardiac surgery for the entire day because it needed nurses and beds in the intensive care unit without vaccinations. covid Patient.

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The cancellation of all heart surgeries on Friday was on top of recently postponed operations in neurosurgery, general surgery and other specialties, warned Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS). unvaccinated Putting pressure on hospital resources.

“This is completely disappointing,” said Dr. Sanjay Sharma, medical director of Hamilton General’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU). “For those who need it, surgery has been canceled because resources are being used up by individuals who could have possibly avoided their hospital stay, as a vaccine is a hard pill to swallow. ”

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During fourth wave During the pandemic, 90 percent of COVID patients admitted to Hamilton General have been unvaccinated In the ICU, this number goes up to 99 percent.

Unaffiliated form seven out of eight patients on last-ditch treatment called Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) – used only for people who are dying and have no other choice but are young and otherwise healthy so that the machine can work as their heart and lungs.

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“With an increasing number of hospitalizations and vaccinations without intensive care, we are reaching resource limits that, if the current trend continues, will make it difficult for us to respond to trauma, stroke and other diseases such as neurosurgery. ” Sharma said. “Having a lot of illiterate people is really taking up our ICU and it’s taking away the resources we need to take care of others.”

the same day the warning came that City The death of a resident with COVID in his 60s was reported, bringing the death toll from the pandemic to 409. The city does not provide vaccination status.

As the hospital’s own doctor urged Hamilton residents to get their COVID shots, HHS again on Monday declined to drop how many of its staff were not vaccinated, despite the September 1 self-disclosure deadline. Has happened.

St Joseph’s Healthcare said on Friday that about 13 percent of its employees, either medical or religious, have not responded, postponed notification or are without vaccinations.

At Joseph Brant Hospital in Burlington, 79.4 percent of staff responded and 96.2 percent of them were fully vaccinated.

In addition, HHS on Monday denied an interview request from The Spectator to explain why it has gone with a staff vaccine policy that is the minimum required by the province – unlike some other academic and teaching hospitals.

McMaster Children’s Hospital, which is part of HHS, is the only major children’s hospital in Ontario that does not impose stricter measures than the minimum.

“The goal is 100 percent vaccination,” Michelle Leroux, vice president of human resources, said in a statement. “The policy will evolve to achieve this goal in the coming weeks and months.”

St. Joseph’s also declined an interview request and made a similar statement about its minimum policy that it hopes will motivate all of its eligible workers to get vaccinated.

“If we do not achieve this goal, we will have to move to compulsory vaccination, as other hospitals in Ontario have done,” Judy Hunter, vice president of people, culture and diversity, said in the statement.

The vast majority of COVID patients in St Joseph have also not been fully vaccinated – 94 per cent as of 7 August – although the hospital has not had to cancel any surgeries as a result.

“Most of the patients who come to the ICU… are quite angry and upset that when they are faced with the prospect of being put on a ventilator, they didn’t get the vaccine,” Sharma said. “It’s hard to watch as a health care professional because you never want any of your patients to feel a degree of despair and to know that a simple injection could have been prevented. You’re just too bad and frustrated for them.” feel.”

He said patients give a variety of reasons why they did not vaccinate, but many have the same theme.

“The reason we are seeing this high level of skepticism is because people are taking their medical advice on social media and not from credible medical professionals,” Sharma said. “We need to educate people more. We really need to highlight that the response to COVID is a social response and if a small group of people do not do their job, it affects the whole society. does.”

He exemplifies the terrible toll of that “extraordinarily bad day” on patients and their families when all heart surgery was cancelled.

Sharma said, “As a family, I can’t imagine how frustrating it would be … health care denied or postponed because resources were being used up by people who weren’t playing their part and immunizations Was doing.” “If you were a patient ready for your heart surgery on Thursday night and on Friday morning you were ready to go in and said you can’t do it because another unrelated COVID patient has come into the ICU, I wouldn’t imagine degree of despair. “

Sharma says the time has come to start pressurizing them to help them understand the implications.

“I think the Vaccine Passport is a great idea and workplace vaccination policies, I think are important first steps,” he said.

The Hamilton surgery cancellation was made public on the same day that dozens of protesters targeted Toronto hospitals for speaking out against the vaccine mandate. Burlington’s Hospital He has also been a target of protesters.

Mayors and chairs of 11 municipal governments in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton areas condemned the protest.

Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger said, “While everyone has a right to protest, this does not give a license to harass hospital staff and hinder access to care.” “This disgusting behavior will not be tolerated.”

Hamilton-Center MPP and NDP leader Andrea Horvath proposed safety-zone legislation to address anti-people health harassment in hospitals.

“After the third wave, doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists have all got burnt,” Sharma said. “It was a bit of a shock to realize that we were going back into the fourth wave, but everyone has pulled on their shoes and are going to work and taking great care of patients. But it’s a lot harder to do in the context of people opposing your job. This causes a great deal of moral distress and it makes an incredibly difficult situation an order of magnitude worse. To think that people are going to take care of you one day, maybe protesting outside.”

Joanna Fruketich is a Hamilton-based reporter who covers health for The Spectator. Reach him via email: [email protected]

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