A message to the community from our President/CEO and Chief of Staff

(NGH) – Friday, December 16, 2022 – From the moment Norfolk General Hospital (NGH) began its COVID-19 pandemic response in March of 2020, we have been overwhelmed by the showing of support from our communities.

The past few years have been unprecedented for healthcare, and the patience and faith you have placed in us during these trying times are very much appreciated. We continue to remain fully committed to fulfilling the healthcare needs of the communities we serve, now and well into the future.

As your community hospital, we feel a deep sense of respect and commitment to every one of you that place your confidence in our care.

We also want to acknowledge and thank our staff, volunteers and physicians for everything they do and have done to keep our patients safe. They pulled together quickly when called to action. They have also gone above and beyond every day to keep our patients and our communities safe. And we are so proud of how they handled and have supported each other, including our valued healthcare partners.

But as we move forward together, our NGH family needs your help and support, now more than ever.

Like every emergency department (ED) in Ontario, our ED continues to face significant patient volumes, driven by an unusually high seasonal surge in viral illnesses and COVID-19. This is not isolated to NGH and is being felt across the province.

The reality is COVID-19 is still very much present in Haldimand-Norfolk. There is still a high risk of transmission in the community, and many individuals can still face severe outcomes if infected. Now with the addition of a seasonal surge in viral illness, our hospital capacity is being challenged like never before. Staffing pressures continue to strain the ability of our teams at NGH to accommodate this extraordinary surge in occupancy. NGH has frequently reached or exceeded 100% occupancy over the past year, and in recent months the hospital has, on a daily basis, been running in excess of 100% occupancy. The ongoing challenges experienced by our teams throughout COVID-19 are now being felt in an escalated manner.

Like many hospitals across Canada, NGH continues to face immense pressures related to staffing shortages. Despite aggressive recruitment efforts by the hospital, the number of qualified applicants is often not enough to fill vacancies. Staffing shortages are further exacerbated by a rise in the number of staff and physicians in self-isolation due to COVID, and a much higher number than usual of staff off ill due to influenza-like illness, while also caring for family members who are ill at home.

To paint a clear picture, nearly 80 NGH staff were unable to report to work after testing positive for COVID-19 or an influenza-like illness in the month of November 2022. So far this month (December), roughly 70 staff have been unable to report to work for the same reasons. This creates further strain on staffing resources which are already stretched to the limit.

These challenges have resulted in us making very difficult decisions of late, such as temporarily closing our emergency department on December 3 due to a shortage of available staff. Every decision we make is done to ensure the health and safety of our patients and staff. This is, and will always be, our top priority.

The bottom line is that our dedicated staff and physicians are not immune from becoming ill.

Our staff, volunteers, and physicians have been the glue that has held our fragile system together during the course of the pandemic. They need your support to continue to provide safe and quality care to everyone in Haldimand-Norfolk, just as we undoubtedly need them to be healthy and respected in their workplace.

The best and easiest actions you can take to support our staff, physicians and each other is to continue to follow these good public health practices: Get vaccinated with the flu shot and the COVID-19 vaccine. Wash your hands. Wear a mask, especially in indoor settings. Practice physical distancing when possible. Stay home when you are feeling unwell.

At Norfolk General Hospital, we are committed to doing our part to both protect the patients we serve — patients who are often at their most vulnerable — and the staff who care for them, even as restrictions in Ontario have eased.

These measures – such as screening, masking, implementing visitor restrictions when needed, and enhanced infection and prevention control measures – have become a life-saver for our community and for our hospital to be able to function as best as it can.

We understand that people are growing tired of the pandemic.  It has been a tough, exhausting, and emotionally draining 2.5 years.  We get it – our amazing hospital teams feel it too. However, we need everyone to show a little more kindness, patience, support, encouragement, and respect to the staff and physicians who continue to selflessly work around the clock to provide care to those who need it most.  These care providers are your neighbours and friends.

Please know that our dedicated staff, volunteers and physicians are doing everything possible to care for our patients. On behalf of all of us at Norfolk General Hospital, we hope you take this message to heart.

Thank you for all of the support you’ve shown us over the last two years and a half plus years. Thank you for treating us as family when you have been undoubtedly navigating your own challenges and uncertainty.

Your generosity lifts spirits and shows appreciation as we work through the ebbs and flows of these latest challenges.

We are stronger together: Today, tomorrow and forever.


Todd Stepanuik
President and CEO

Dr. Robin Martin-Godelie
Chief of Staff