The Ottawa Hospital's General campus is still diverting patients to other emergency departments in the city after a Friday afternoon fire led to what the hospital's leader called an evacuation of the highest order.
It could be several days before the General campus building on Smyth Road is able to resume normal operations, president and CEO Cameron Love said in a scrum with reporters Saturday morning.
The hospital was in the process of replacing a third-floor transformer when it caught fire.
Ottawa Fire Services (OFS) responded around 3:45 p.m., and the fire was declared under control at 5:26 p.m.
The Ottawa Hospital has declared a code orange at its General campus and is still asking people stay away, one day after a transformer fire broke out Friday afternoon. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)
There were no patients on the third floor, as that space is devoted to mechanical works that feed into the rest of the building.
But patients on the west end of the hospital, from floors four to eight, were relocated to the east end — 96 patients in all, according to Love.
Seventeen babies in the neonatal intensive care unit were transferred by firefighters and hospital staff to CHEO, the local children's hospital, according to an OFS social media post Saturday afternoon.
"They're the sickest babies, that's why they're on ventilators. You do not want smoke, you do not want anything in that area," Love said.
"And so from a safety precaution, they were moved right off the bat."
OFS also said in their post that crews carried four women in labour down the stairs, along with several who had just given birth, so that they could be relocated to other hospitals.
Love only spoke Saturday morning about one woman in labour, saying she and her baby were safe and that the baby had been taken to CHEO.
While it's safe for postpartum women to stay at the hospital, Love said those who are ready to deliver have also been transferred out.
"We've had no incidents associated with smoke inhalation or incidents associated with the fire," he added.
Nurses doing 'remarkably well'
Since the fire has disrupted emergency department services at the hospital, members of the public are being asked to visit other ERs in Ottawa instead.
All emergency patients were transferred to The Ottawa Hospital's Civic campus, the Queensway Carleton hospital or the Montfort Hospital.
The Montfort Hospital is operating normally this weekend but it's busier than usual, particularly in the ER, said Martin Sauvé, interim director of communications.
Given that added pressure, anyone needing hospital care should try to be considerate, said Rachel Muir, a registered nurse and bargaining unit president for the Ontario Nurses' Association at The Ottawa Hospital.
"When you close an emergency department the size of the General, it is going to impact other nursing areas, other emergency departments. So be patient," she said.
Nurses at the General campus have reported it smells bad, Muir said, while those who've moved to CHEO are using paper for documentation as they don't have access there to The Ottawa Hospital's system.
But overall they're doing "remarkably well," she said.
"They're doing what they need to do," said Muir.
Cameron Love, president and CEO of the Ottawa Hospital, speaks to reporters on Saturday after a fire at the hospital's General campus. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)
Unclear when normal operations will resume
Love said The Ottawa Hospital will be working with its community partners, including other hospitals, to determine what its operations will look like in the coming days.
All emergency surgeries scheduled this weekend at the General campus will instead be performed at the Civic campus, Love said.
"Over the next few days, we'll work with other partners as to whether we transfer their surgical procedures, so we don't have significant impacts in terms of longer waits for patients that were booked for surgery," he said.
It's also possible that the fire has damaged hospital supplies, Love said.
"On the units that we've had a lot of smoke, the infection control teams are going through them now. Any supplies that may have any particular debris on it, we'll probably take a precautionary measure and just get rid of them and have to replace them," he said.
Firefighters and staff at The Ottawa Hospital's General campus transport a baby off of the hospital's 8th floor early Saturday morning. Ottawa Fire Services says 17 neonatal babies were moved from the intensive care unit to CHEO after the floor lost power. (Ottawa Fire Services/X)
The hospital has set up a family reunification centre to help patients and their families stay up to date with developments, which could include notifications as to when they'll be allowed in the building again.
"There's so many moving parts to this thing, you want to update every single hour," Love said. "So over the course of today and tomorrow we will be able to confirm more accurately when we'll be able to recommission the units that will allow us to resume all normal operations."
The water system at the General campus was also undergoing hyperchlorination this week after two people fell ill with legionellosis earlier in October.
Love said the hyperchlorination process had wrapped up Friday afternoon and crews were bringing the water systems back online when the fire broke out.