Coronavirus: Several Ontario hospitals should be ready to implement surge capacity plans within 2 days

WATCH ABOVE: Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Health Minister Christine Elliott responded to questions Tuesday about high COVID-19 case counts despite parts of the province being in lockdown, saying that based on modelling, there could have been 6,500 daily cases had restrictive measures not been implemented.

With Ontario breaking record daily coronavirus case counts in recent days and weeks, a key Ontario government agency is warning hospitals in grey lockdown and red control zones to be prepared to implement surge capacity plans within two days if needed.

A memo issued by Ontario Health CEO Matthew Anderson to hospitals on Tuesday said the province has hit a “critical phase” in the pandemic, with “widespread” community transmission of the virus.

“Our ability to care for patients (COVID and non-COVID alike) is being challenged, so we are asking hospitals to work together, even more, to ensure we can continue to have the bed capacity to care for patients, safely and effectively,” read the document, which went to all hospital CEOs.

The memo said hospitals in grey and red zones under the province’s coronavirus response framework need to ensure up to 15 per cent of staffed adult acute inpatient beds will be available for COVID-19 patients.

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Anderson encouraged those hospitals to focus on continuing surgeries, procedures and in-person care that is considered time-sensitive, but any in-person care that is not time-sensitive should be reviewed for possible deferment.

According to the COVID-19 data from Monday released by the Ontario government, there are currently 921 people hospitalized due to coronavirus — an increase of 64 patients from the day before.

Of those patients, 249 people are in intensive care units (a day-over-day increase of five patients) and 156 are on ventilators (a day-over-day increase of seven patients).

A daily data report from Critical Care Services Ontario on Monday illustrates how adult critical care beds, which accommodate patients with a wide variety of ailments including COVID-19, in the province are being strained.

While patients might be moved around to make room, in regions like Mississauga and Halton, for instance, there were 123 people in 132 critical beds on Monday. In total across the province, 1,765 out of 2,136 beds were reported to be full.

The current situation has prompted the Ontario Hospital Association to call an emergency meeting of its board of directors on Wednesday.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is clearly worsening in Ontario and the resulting pressure on Ontario’s hospitals is deeply concerning,” a statement issued by the association Tuesday afternoon said, adding Christmas and holiday gatherings have the potential to exacerbate the problem.

“In late December and into January, hospitals appear increasingly likely to face a wave of seriously ill COVID patients that will almost certainly disrupt other acute care services and operations.”

Read more:
‘Patients will die’: Doctors warn hospitals bursting as coronavirus cases soar

Alexandra Hilkene, a spokesperson for Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott, reiterated the provincial government’s past commitment to spend $2.5 billion to support the province’s hospitals during COVID-19 and to create more than 3,100 new beds.

“The situation we are seeing in our hospitals is a reflection of COVID-19 spread in the community,” she wrote in a statement to Global News Tuesday evening.

“Now more than ever, it is critical that all Ontarians continue to follow public health advice to help stop the spread of the virus. Everyone has a role to play to protect each other.”

To date, 144,396 people have tested positive for coronavirus, 3,992 have died due to COVID-19 and 123,373 people were reported to have recovered from the virus.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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