Ontario's Hospitals Facing Most Serious Crisis in Their History

Critical care services facing punishing pressures in third wave of pandemic

TORONTO, April 1, 2021 /CNW/ – “The Ontario Hospital Association welcomes the enhanced public health measures announced today by the Government of Ontario which are intended to staunch the third wave of the pandemic. Ontario’s hospitals are grappling with an historic crisis and their situation is the most perilous it’s been since the pandemic began.

Ontario hospitals are now caring for the highest number of patients with COVID-19 in critical care beds at one time, putting unprecedented strain on hospitals and their health care professionals and workers. Over the past two weeks, there has been a 41.7 per cent increase in hospitalizations, driven largely by new variants of concern. There are now 430 patients in intensive care units (ICUs) with 43 new admissions yesterday alone. In contrast to the first two waves, many of these patients are younger, and many do not have any prior health care concerns. Provincial modelling projects that a scenario of 700 patients in ICU is possible by April 18. Should that occur, the cost to human health and to the ability of hospitals to provide equitable access to critical care and all other health services will be devastating.

Ontario’s critical care health system is not designed nor is it intended to operate at 100 per cent base capacity/mass casualty status for an extended period. Current ICU occupancy is 1,821 beds. Baseline capacity is 2,319 and hospitals have been directed to establish an additional 350 ICU beds as a surge contingency for the current crisis. It will not be possible for Ontario’s hospitals to staff their 74 critical care programs at normal levels on a sustained basis at these occupancy levels. Even with best efforts, very significant disruption to other surgical and diagnostic services is certain. Given the severity of the situation, the OHA strongly recommends that the Government of Ontario and local public health units monitor the situation closely and take additional, immediate action to enhance public health measures as circumstances warrant.

Throughout the last year, Ontario hospitals have stood ready to do whatever it takes to fight the pandemic and they remain on state-of-emergency footing. At this moment, the OHA makes three health policy recommendations.

First, it’s imperative that we get vaccines into the arms of those in the hardest-hit and most vulnerable communities. The focus of provincial vaccination efforts must shift to prioritize hotspots where COVID-19 is out of control and the population is most vulnerable to infection, while shifting away from mass vaccination clinics to community-based programs that bring access to vaccines right to the front door of people most at risk. The Ontario Chamber of Commerce, Retail Council of Canada and Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses have also stepped forward to offer volunteers and resources and specialized expertise from their respective members to help strengthen mass vaccination efforts.  The OHA encourages a stronger partnership between the health sector and business and industry to enhance mass vaccination capacity.

Second, a provincial campaign is needed as soon as possible to improve vaccine confidence and increase uptake of COVID-19 vaccines.

Third, sick pay for essential workers is needed immediately to help stop community spread of COVID-19, particularly among essential workers.

These targeted strategies and strict adherence to public health measures will help curb the impact of the third wave. We implore every Ontarian to continue to stay home if you can, wear a mask indoors and outdoors, and physical distance when in close quarters. The situation at present is extremely serious but the end of this public health crisis is in sight.  As vaccination rollout accelerates across the province, more and more people will gain protection from COVID-19. If we all come together as a province one final time we will prevail in the fight against the pandemic and before long, life will start to return to normal.”

–          Anthony Dale, President and CEO, Ontario Hospital Association

Ontario Hospital Association
The Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) is the voice of Ontario’s public hospitals. Founded in 1924, the OHA uses advocacy, education and partnerships to build a strong, innovative and sustainable health care system for all Ontarians.

SOURCE Ontario Hospital Association

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