Surge in respiratory sickness expected to worsen until January peak: CEO

By James Matthews
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Haliburton Highlands Health Service continued to be bludgeoned by an increase in respiratory ailments.
Carolyn Plummer, the CEO and president at the health service, apprised the board of directors of how the region’s health resources are faring during the latest surge in respiratory ailments.
The HHHS board of directors met Dec. 8.
The health care system in the whole of Ontario is being hit very hard by a substantial spike in cases of respiratory illnesses. The Triple Threat of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), influenza, and COVID-19 has created huge pressure on children’s hospitals and those that provide pediatric services.
“As these hospitals are forced to take spaces normally meant for adults and convert them to pediatric spaces, it has meant that hospitals like HHHS may be asked to take adult transfers from other areas to help create those spaces,” said Carolyn Plummer, the president and CEO at the health service.
All hospitals have also been directed to operate under surge protocols, which means that if HHHS has patients in the Emergency Department needing admission to the hospital, they’re required to either hold patients in the emergency room while they wait for a bed or in unconventional spaces not usually used for patient care, she said.
“All of this, including our precarious (health human resources) situation, may impact wait times in our EDs, and our capacity to see people as quickly as we would normally strive to do,” she said.
HHHS has already experienced surges beyond its regular 15 in-patient bed capacity, requiring admissions in the ED and in unconventional spaces. With this spike of cases not expected to peak until January, the situation will likely worsen before it improves.
For this reason, Plummer said, it is incredibly important that everyone takes steps to protect themselves, their family members, friends, and particularly the infants and children in their lives from the spread of illnesses.
She strongly recommended wearing a mask in all indoor public spaces, including childcare and school settings, getting up-to-date on immunizations, including COVID-19 boosters and the flu vaccine, frequent hand washing, and for people to stay home when they are feeling unwell.
“It will be a very challenging winter with these illnesses circulating, but we can all do our part to prevent ourselves and our loved ones from falling ill, and safeguard our health care system capacity,” she said.
Plummer informed the board that the Ontario Superior Court of Justice struck down as unconstitutional Bill 124, by which the provincial government limited wage increases for public sector workers including health care workers to one per cent.
The ruling came after groups representing public sector employees challenged the constitutionality of the legislation.
“At this time, it remains to be seen what the impact of this decision will be and how the government will respond,” she said.
The province released in mid-November its economic outlook and fiscal review.
It provided an update on the state of Ontario’s economy, forecasts for the near term, and a new set of initiatives to support small businesses, tackle the labour shortage, and keep costs down for Ontarians.
“While health care was a strong focus of the budget, the update did not include any noteworthy changes in program expenses for health care in the current year or in the next two years,” Plummer said.
Highland Wood Long-Term Care Home recently experienced a COVID-19 outbreak. There were a total of two residents who tested positive during the outbreak.
“It is a testament to the hard work and diligence of our staff, as well as the understanding and cooperation of residents and their family members, that this outbreak was brought to a swift end,” she said.
It lasted only about a month.