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HSN patient surge highest in 10 years, says COO

Updated at 2:30 p.m.: Health Sciences North faced its largest patient surge in a decade on Sunday and Monday, said its chief operating officer today.
Health Sciences North faced the biggest patient surge Sunday and Monday its chief operating officer has seen since he started with the hospital 10 years ago. File photo.

Updated at 2:30 p.m.: Health Sciences North faced its largest patient surge in a decade on Sunday and Monday, said its chief operating officer today.

On a typical Saturday or Sunday, the hospital admits around 40 new patients a day, and admits an average of 70 patients a day on a week day, said Joe Pilon, the hospital's chief operating officer.

“On Sunday, we ended up having to admit 52 patients, and 93 new patients yesterday (Monday). That's 35 more patients than we would typically have to admit,” he said.

Pilon said the patient surge was not due to a flu outbreak, but was instead a “full distribution” of patients with a variety of health issues, ranging from cardiac problems to mental illness.

Pilon said the hospital's emergency department admitted 43 patients Tuesday morning, but only has 39 stretchers.

“The pressure was incredible, so we had to stop everything and look at what had to be done,” Pilon said.

The hospital cancelled some non-urgent surgeries, and has worked with regional hospitals to transfer out-of-town patients back to their home communities.

“We figure it will probably be Friday before the whole system is stabilized again, unless this surge continues, which we're not expecting,” Pilon said.

He added the week's surge, while a rare event, raises concerns about how the hospital would handle a surge from flu cases, or in a worst case scenario, a pandemic.

“If the surge was greater than what we experienced today, I don't know how we would respond,” Pilon said.

In the case of a pandemic, he said the hospital would need to reach out to community partners, such as the city's walk-in clinics, to help care for the increased number of patients.

Pilon said this week's patient surge will serve as a learning opportunity to apply what was done right in the future, and improve on any shortcomings adapting for a greater number of patients than normal.

Original story 

Health Sciences North is cancelling non-urgent surgeries and steering patients away from the emergency room as it deals with what it’s calling a “surge” of patients. 

In a news release, the hospital offers no explanation or information on the surge, but did say Joe Pilon, HSN’s chief operating officer, would be available to speak to media starting at 1 p.m.

In the meantime, the hospital said it is taking a number of steps to free up resources so patients requiring acute care can be served.

Measures include:

  • Overflow areas are being created in units across HSN. 
  • Non-urgent surgeries are being cancelled. All critical surgeries continue to be performed. 
  • HSN is working with regional hospitals to arrange for the transfer of out-of-town patients back to their community. 
  • HSN is asking long-term care and nursing homes to avoid transfers of residents to hospital if there is a physician available to treat them on site. 
  • HSN is asking the public to consider alternatives to the ED for non-urgent care, such as walk-in clinics and their family doctors. 
  • HSN’s Mental Health Crisis Intervention Service on Cedar Street is available until 10 pm nightly to help people in crisis.  

HSN said in the release that critical urgent services will continue to be available, adding the “current situation” — which it did not define — will take several days to resolve.

It advised people that going to the emergency department for non-urgent care will see you experience longer-than-usual delays. will be updating this story shortly.

Jonathan Migneault

About the Author: Jonathan Migneault

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