Ontario hospitals told to activate emergency plans as number of COVID-19 patients spikes

Ontario hospitals told to activate emergency plans as number of COVID-19 patients spikes

Hospitals across Ontario have been ordered to brace for a spike in COVID-19 patients.

A memo from Ontario Health obtained by CBC News tells hospitals to prepare to activate emergency plans immediately. For hospitals in the grey lockdown and red control zones, that means making available up to 15 per cent of their beds for COVID-19 patients.

Matthew Anderson, CEO of Ontario Health, a provincial government agency, said in the memo dated Tuesday that the pandemic has entered a more critical phase with community transmission now widespread.

Anderson said the ability of hospitals to care for patients with and without COVID-19 is being challenged. The memo was sent to every hospital CEO in the province.

The memo tells all hospitals to be ready to activate their “surge capacity plans” within 48 hours.

“As we are all aware, we have entered a more critical phase of the pandemic where we are seeing widespread community transmission,” Anderson said in the memo. 

“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.”

Under those plans, hospitals located in regions now in grey lockdown or red-control zones need to make 10 to 15 per cent of their beds available for COVID-19 patients.

At the moment, Toronto, Peel and York Regions and Windsor are in the grey lockdown zone, while Hamilton, Waterloo Region and Middlesex-London are in the red-control zone.

Hospitals in the rest of the province are being told to prepare their facilities in case the public health units in which they are located are moved into a red-control zone.

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“The actions we collectively take in the next days and weeks will set the stage for our ability to meet escalating and anticipated capacity demands,” Anderson said. 

“Above and beyond actions at an individual organization’s level, we must all take a holistic view to ensure we have a coordinated and equitable approach to serve our patients safely and compassionately across the regions.”

Memo comes after number of hospitalizations tops 900

The memo comes as the number of COVID-19 patients in Ontario hospitals surpassed 900 for the first time since May. 

The number of people in Ontario hospitals with confirmed cases of COVID-19 is now 921, up from 857 on Monday — an increase of 64. Of those, 249 are being treated in intensive care and 156 require the use of a ventilator, up five and seven, respectively, from Monday.

Some hospitals in the GTA are already full and have resorted to transferring patients to other facilities to ease the pressure.

Hospitals in Scarborough, Brampton and Mississauga, for example, have cancelled scheduled surgeries, while hospitals in York Region and Hamilton have warned that a capacity crisis is imminent.

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