Trouble signs: Montreal adult patients sent to children's hospital to free up COVID-19 ICU beds
MONTREAL -- One of Montreal's hospital networks is so overloaded with COVID-19 patients that it has begun to transfer some adults to the Montreal Children's Hospital, CTV News has learned.
Intensive care units at the McGill University Health Centre network are full to the point that the MUHC hospitals are trying to add more beds with creative solutions.
At the Royal Victoria hospital, all 35 ICU beds are occupied, and several plans are being studied to find a way to squeeze in more.
That presents quite a logistical challenge because of the resources needed to treat COVID-19 -- the average length of a hospital stay for a COVID-19 patient in Quebec is 17 days.
At the Montreal General Hospital, the ICU isn't quite full yet, but the hospital is preparing for more patients. The General has made arrangements for eight more beds, freeing them partly by transferring adult patients into the Montreal Children's Hospital.
"We are increasing ICU capacity through an MUHC-wide effort of déléstage," said MUHC spokesperson Sandra Sciangula. This term describes an overall system of decreasing various regular activities to free up staff.
"For example, as of December 23, 11 post-op patients from the Royal Victoria Hospital were transferred to the care of the teams at Montreal Children's Hospital, where adult patients are also being cared for in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit," she wrote.
"Other areas of the adult sites can also be used to expand capacity. Increasing ICU capacity has required remarkable collaboration from across the entire MUHC."
On top of this, the ICU at the Montreal Neurological Institute is closed entirely because of an outbreak there. Five staff members tested positive, but the hospital says the virus was not passed on to any patients.
The Neuro's reception centre for stroke patients is also closed and ambulance are being rerouted.
It's not unheard of to need to free up beds in ICUs, but what is alarming is that Montreal is not yet at the peak of COVID-19 cases over the next few weeks, said Dr. Peter Goldberg, the program head of critical care medicine at the MUHC.
Any illicit Christmas gatherings haven't even happened yet -- and Goldberg pleaded with Montrealers not to do them.
“This is not an unusual experience for us, but it is more acute and ominous insofar as what will happen after Christmas," he wrote in a statement to CTV News.
"I assume the height will come in mid-January. We need to take COVID-19 seriously and follow Public Health guidelines over the holidays."
On Wednesday, Quebec broke its fourth single-day record in five days for new COVID-19 cases, also recording 74 new deaths from the virus.