Toronto hospital's ICU has no COVID-19 patients for first time in months
TORONTO -- Humber River Hospital celebrated a big victory on Friday, announcing that its intensive care unit has zero COVID-19 patients for the first time since March.
"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," the hospital posted on Twitter.
In an interview with CTV News Toronto, Dr. Jamie Spiegelman, an internal medicine and critical care specialist at the hospital, described how staff managed to reach the milestone.
At the beginning of the pandemic, Spiegelman said everyone was stressed and afraid of the novel coronavirus because there were many unknowns about it. Many were scared to go into patient rooms.
"We were not sure how contagious it was. We were not sure if our PPE was good enough to protect us," he said.
"For the first two to four weeks, sometime at the end of March and early April, we were fearful that we would get COVID from our patients."
However, as doctors learned more about the virus and how to prevent from contracting it, Spiegelman that they have become quite comfortable in treating COVID-19 patients.
"Most of my days are spent in the ICU. The last three to four months, we've been relatively busy," he said.
"We've been quite full for most of those months in terms of having both COVID patients and having non-COVID patients."
At the pandemic's peak, Spiegelman said some patients were needed to be sent to other hospitals that had more capacity. He noted that at one point, nearly half of the ICU beds had COVID-19 patients.
In the last couple of weeks, however, he observed that the ICU had become less busy until Friday when it recorded zero coronavirus patients.
Even though he considered it a big victory, Spiegelman said what was more important was the small victories. These include patients who survived COVID-19 and leave the hospital.
"Everyone's quite happy that we don't have to deal with COVID-19 patients and that we kind of gone back to our normal routine," he said.
"But then, at the same time, we're still using all precautions because we don't know when it's going to come back."
Flattened the curve
The public health measures introduced by the government were very helpful in stopping the further spread of COVID-19, Spiegelman said.
"The precautions that the government put on society and including physical distancing, staying at home, washing your hands, wearing a mask, have obviously worked to the point where phase one of the pandemic has really calmed down."
He noted that they continue to see younger patients with COVID-19 coming in the emergency room, but they are not being admitted to the ICU.
On Sunday, Ontario health officials reported fewer than 200 new cases of the virus for the sixth consecutive day. The province's health minister said the positivity rate remains at "all-time lows."
The province also said it is continuing to see a decline in hospitalizations.
"What it has shown is that flattening the curve has really worked," Spiegelman said.
"If we didn't do physical distancing initially, and if we didn't wash your hands and if we didn't stay at home from work, the hospital resources, the ICUs, the wards would not have been able to deal with so many patients."
Ready for the second wave
The doctor noted that there has never been a pandemic where there wasn't a second wave that's why hospital staff are taking a cautious approach.
The hospital is located in the northwestern part of Toronto, where five neighbourhoods have recorded more than 400 COVID-19 infections since the outbreak began
"I think what we've learned from the first round is that we're ready for it," Spiegelman said. "We know what to expect, and we know how to treat these patients."