main hospital building at night


Critical Care is a Team Effort at Cornwall Hospital


Originally published in the Standard-Freeholder on Saturday, October 15.

By Jeanette Despatie

The Critical Care Unit (also known as the CCU, or an Intensive Care Unit) at Cornwall Community Hospital (CCH) is home to a team of specially trained healthcare professionals who provide 24-hour care to patients who have life-threatening injuries and illnesses. This includes administering specialized treatments and using machines to help people recover, breathe, and monitor vital signs.

The total population served by our hospital’s CCU is approximately 110,000 people from throughout the City of Cornwall, Akwesasne and the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry.

There are twelve private beds in our CCU, and it is not uncommon for most (or all) of these beds to be occupied by patients at any given point. On average, over 550 patients are treated every year in the CCU.

“As our population ages, many of the patients we see in our CCU present with very complex interactions between various health conditions and acute illnesses. But modern medicine has given us the opportunity to turn many illnesses that were previously fatal into chronic conditions, and the specialized service we can provide in our CCU can deliver comprehensive care to help people recover from these complex health issues,” explains Dr. Renée Givari, intensivist and Chief of Medicine at CCH.

Our CCU has a group of five dedicated intensivists (specially trained physicians who provide intensive care to critically ill patients), including Dr. Givari, who practise within a “closed” model of critical care, which is unique to Eastern Ontario outside of the City of Ottawa.

In a closed CCU, only an intensivist admits patients to the unit, where these patients are then cared for by an intensivist-led team. This allows for better coordination of critical care services, a more cohesive treatment strategy with focused leadership, and smaller teams dedicated to each patient; ultimately resulting in better patient-centred care and outcomes.

“Because of this specialist closed model of care, we practise at the same standards and provide the same caliber of care you would receive from an Intensive Care Unit in any big city like Ottawa or Toronto,” says Dr. Paul Westergaard, intensivist and Medical Director of the Critical Care Unit at CCH. “This is also one of the key reasons why our intensivists really enjoy their experience at CCH. Whereas some hospitals struggle with intensivist coverage, we have been fortunate to attract and retain them for many years in Cornwall.”

Intensivists like Dr. Givari and Dr. Westergaard rely on a multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals to work by their side, which includes a diverse group of nurses, physiotherapists, dietitians, pharmacists, and respiratory therapists who manage patients on ventilators and assess patients' blood-oxygen level.

“Respiratory therapists are an integral part of a well functioning CCU, and we are so lucky to have such a great number of highly skilled respiratory therapists at CCH, who we can rely on when our patients require assistance with their shortness of breath or inability to breathe,” says Dr. Givari. “They are our eyes and ears around the hospital when it comes to acutely ill patients, and they are the ones managing non-invasive and invasive ventilation. I couldn’t imagine running a CCU without their support.”

Respiratory therapists are onsite at CCH 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They work with both critical and non-critical patients and provide advice on respiratory care and teach people how to use respiratory aids or other treatments. Our respiratory therapists are also trained in neonatal resuscitation, in the event there are any breathing complications with newborn babies during labour and delivery and up to the age of 28 days.

This month we celebrate both Canadian Intensive Care Week and Respiratory Therapy Week. Please join me in thanking both our critical care and respiratory teams for their hard work, dedication, and service to our community. We never know when you might find yourself needing their help, but I do know we would be in good hands.

 CCU staff 2022