MIDDLESEX CENTRE, ONT. --
Officials with the London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) confirm additional capacity for holding bodies had to be brought in as a result of the pandemic.
The Pathology and Laboratory Medicine (PaLM) unit at LHSC can hold up to 28 bodies, but officials say temporary alternative measures have been needed after the morgue became full.
A refrigerated trailer could be seen parked in a loading bay at the hospital on Tuesday.
Since mid-November LHSC's University Hospital has seen outbreaks in 12 units, impacting 92 staff and 82 patients, with 26 associated deaths reported.
While the last of those outbreaks was declared over on Dec. 29, two others continue at LHSC's Victoria Hospital.
A statement from Glen Kearns, integrated vice-president of Diagnostic Services and chief information officer at LHSC, indicates part of the reason an overflow area is needed is that it is taking longer for arrangements to be made by bereaved families.
“New processes due to the pandemic have resulted in increases in the time needed for securing appropriate arrangements and have necessitated additional interim body holding solutions.”
The PaLM facility is the regional forensic pathology unit for all of southwestern Ontario, and also provides autopsy support to the regional coroner's office and Ontario’s death investigations.
Kearns added, “To date we have rarely used the alternative body holding solution – this is only the second time we have had to use the mobile service since the start of the pandemic and we expect the capacity challenge to be resolved within days.”
He added that LHSC “is committed to the safe and respectful care and sheltering of bodies after death.”
Hospital officials are also expecting things to get worse.
During a virtual media briefing on Monday, Dr. Adam Dukelow, chief medical officer for LHSC, said, "Given the rate of transmission in the community, we anticipate numbers to grow."
The hospital has also started cancelling surgeries due to the volume of COVID-19 patients.
As of Tuesday, LHSC was reporting 38 patients and 28 staff with COVID-19, including nine patients in critical care.
The Middlesex-London Health Unit reported 184 new cases Tuesday, a new record, and Medical Officer of Health Dr. Chris Mackie says the high case counts are stressing resources.
“It is impacting the ability of the Middlesex-London Health Unit to investigate cases and follow up on contacts. We’ve had lots of people volunteer for contact tracing - the challenge is mostly on case investigation, which is a skill set dependent on experience, so that ones been hard to keep up with.”
- With files from CTV London's Jordyn Read