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Sudbury, ON … While much of Ontario worries, legitimately, about access to H1N1 vaccine, local and national hospital union leaders are asking pointed questions about Sudbury Regional Hospital’s capacity to handle an H1N1 2nd or even 3rd wave peak.

Canada’s chief public health officer says the virus’s second wave high point is still a “few weeks” away, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health says Sudbury is “quite busy” with flu activity and Sudbury Regional Hospital has “reached and exceeded” capacity after reported a 30 per cent surge in visits, been forced to transfer patients to other institutions and cancelled up to 47 surgeries out of concern for protection of critical care beds,” says Ontario Council of Hospital Unions President Michael Hurley. 

That’s why we’re calling on local officials and the Ministry of Health to disclose the real current occupancy rates at SRH and tell us how many ICU beds are available,” Mr. Hurley said.

This information is essential in order to know how much money from the $600 million Ontario has budgeted for H1N1 should be earmarked for Sudbury to add ICU beds and to step up hospital cleaning. Diseases like H1N1 can spread in a hospital environment without vigorous attention to infection control,” said Dave Shelefontiuk, President of CUPE Local 1623 representing workers staff at Sudbury Regional Hospital. Mr. Shelefontiuk appeared with Mr. Hurley and OCHU Vice-President Sharon Richer at today’s news conference.

Shelefontiuk said “thorough H1N1 protection requires better guidelines on vaccinations for all hospital staff in order that we minimize the spread of infection and our most recent data shows that about 1,900 out of 3,400 hospital staff have been vaccinated so far.”
Speaking at a news conference in Sudbury, Hurley and Shelefontiuk expressed fear that some may even be turned away if the H1N1 peaks again. “A 2006 study used by the Ontario Health Ministry predicted influenza admissions to Ontario hospitals reaching 1823 per day with demand on ICU resources hitting 171% of bed capacity and proposed a Triage protocol that could limit who might get admitted,” Hurley said.

Triage protocols developed in Ontario after SARS plan for the eventuality that decisions may need to be made to deny access to ventilators to some patients based on their likelihood of survival, should the surge in patients overwhelm resources,” said Hurley.

The Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) / CUPE represents 25,000 hospital nurses and support and clerical staff at hospitals throughout Ontario.

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For information:

Dave Shelefontiuk,  President CUPE 1623       705-929-8457
Michael Hurley,   President OCHU                   416-884-0770
Chris Watson,  CUPE Communications            416-553-9410