Toronto hospital free of COVID-19 patients for first time since March

For the first time in months, Humber River Hospital has no COVID patients in its ICU.
By: Stewart Wiseman
July 06, 2020
Photo: Humber River Hospital

The Humber River Hospital in Toronto has reason for celebration: for the first time since March 14, the hospital has zero COVID-19 patients in their intensive care unit. The hospital announced the good news on Friday, tweeting, "Wow!! Today is the first day since Mar 14th that our Intensive Care Unit are #COVIDー19 patient free! Thank you to the 6th-floor staff and physicians that have bonded together and provided exceptional care in this pandemic. Today is a day to celebrate at #HRH." Dr. Garret Pulle, a critical care physician, said that the hospital staff are very pleased to celebrate this benchmark after several months of battling COVID-19. "We've had many different emotions over those last four months, starting with fear and anxiety and ending with utter exhaustion, " said Dr. Pulle.

At one point during the pandemic, Humber River Hospital had the highest number of COVID-19 patients in the Greater Toronto Area. Dr. Jamie Spiegelman, an internal medicine doctor at Humber River Hospital, said that hospital staff have "gone through three and a half months of treating patients with a pretty serious illness, treating a disease we've never treated before. So the fact that we've been able to go down to zero patients in the ICU is quite celebratory for us."

Dr. Spiegelman said that the key to preventing a larger COVID-19 outbreak in the hospital was rigorous use of PPE by hospital staff. "The first couple of months were very scary and we were worried about bringing the disease home to our families, so we learned the proper way of treating the patients and the proper way of putting on PPE," said Dr. Spiegelman. "The PPE that we use really protected us in the ICU. We've had no staff members get COVID-19 from a patient, so we know that N95 face-masks, gowns, gloves, and face-shields are the appropriate equipment we need." Dr. Spiegelman says that staff were retrained in the early days of the pandemic for how to properly put on and take off the PPE. "We have someone watching us put it on to make sure it's being done correctly, because that's when you can self-contaminate the most."

At the height of the pandemic, Humber River Hospital had one of the busiest ICUs in Toronto, with 48 beds filled and working at 120% capacity. Additionally, Dr. Spiegelman says that the hospital stabilized "at least double" that number of COVID-19 patients, who were then transferred to other hospitals that weren't as busy. Despite the celebratory mood in the hospital on Friday, Dr. Spiegelman notes that the biggest celebrations took place when the hospital had individual successes. "When we had individual patients that survived and were able to leave the ICU, that's when we really celebrated successes. Those personal individual wins are the most important."

Source: CP24 Toronto, CBC News

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