Operations are canceled on the London hospital amid the COVID-19 outbreak

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Jennifer Bieman

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June 21, 202113 hours ago3 minutes read 26 comments London University Hospital.  (Mike Hensen / The London Free Press) London University Hospital. (Mike Hensen / The London Free Press)

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The London Health Sciences Center is canceling operations to contain a COVID-19 outbreak at its transplant unit, a setback on top of more than a year lagged procedures that were canceled by the pandemic.

Officials have opened a dozen beds at Victoria Hospital for patients who would normally be treated at the university hospital, where a COVID-19 outbreak continues at its eighth floor transplant unit.

The outbreak was declared on June 13 and affects fewer than five staff and five patients, according to the hospital.

“We have implemented extensive infection control procedures, including improved cleaning, testing our patients, staff and doctors on the ward, and closing the transplant department to new admissions,” said Carol Young-Ritchie, executive vice-president and chief clinical officer.

“We are also taking a holistic approach to this outbreak as we develop our response to this pandemic.”

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LHSC has closed some inpatient beds in the transplant unit at UH and is working with St. Joseph’s Health Care London to move patients who can be adequately cared for at their facility, she said.

Young-Ritchie would not disclose the vaccination status of the staff and patient cases at the outbreak of the transplant station or the affected variant, citing data protection considerations.

About 69 percent of the LHSC doctors and staff received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and about 20 percent received both doses, Young-Ritchie said Monday. Because LHSC relies on staff to report their vaccination status themselves, LHSC believes the total number is higher, she said.

After LHSC made nationwide cancellations of non-emergency operations in the third wave, LHSC is working to increase its operation volume while maintaining capacity for the pandemic response, Young-Ritchie said.

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This week, 14 of 17 operating theaters at Victoria Hospital are up and running, 11 out of 15 operating theaters at University Hospital are online, and two operating theaters at the LHSC Day Surgery Center on Baseline Road are up and running.

It is difficult to estimate the exact number of operations canceled by the pandemic at the LHSC, Young-Ritchie said. The hospital was struggling with a backlog of up to 4,500 procedures at the end of the second wave in February.

“We had fewer operations for well over a year. We are working with our schemes and the government on how we can catch up, ”said Young-Ritchie. “We are aware of the backlog we have.”

The COVID-19 outbreak in the transplant department is the first in the university hospital since March and comes after a stormy second and third wave at the facility.

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The LHSC declared COVID-19 outbreaks in 11 units of the university hospital for seven weeks from mid-November to late December. The outbreaks resulted in 174 patient and staff cases and 26 deaths.

LHSC declared a COVID-19 outbreak in the University Hospital’s emergency room on January 15, which was resolved in early February, and another outbreak in a medical department at the hospital in March. There were no deaths in either of the outbreaks.

The number of COVID-19 patients at the LHSC has fallen significantly from the all-time high of the third wave, when the hospital regularly admitted seriously ill patients from outside the London area, including the severely affected Greater Toronto Area.

LHSC had 15 COVID-19 patients in the hospital on Monday, including nine in intensive care. COVID-19 patients transferred from outside the London area account for fewer than five of the acute admissions and fewer than five of the ICU patients.

The hospital will not disclose the exact number of patients if it is less than five for privacy reasons.

At its peak on May 5, LHSC reported 99 COVID-19 patients. Days earlier, the hospital reported a record of 44 COVID-19 patients in its intensive care units.

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