Non-urgent surgeries on hold as hospital capacity concerns grow

Hospitals are caring for 2,081 COVID-19 patients, including 288 in intensive care

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Ontario has ordered the halt of non-urgent surgeries and procedures if there’s a possibility they could result in a visit to a hospital emergency department.

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The directive also vetoes non-emergency procedures if surgical nursing or anaesthesia human resource support would be required.

Dental surgeries that carry a “substantive risk” of needing emergency medical services must be urgent and emergent to proceed, the directive states.

Directive No. 2 applies to regulated health professionals or those who operate a group practice of regulated health professions including independent health facilities.

Ontario is trying to preserve hospital capacity as the sector struggles with rising patient loads combined with staff shortages due to COVID-19 isolation.

The number of COVID-19 patients in Ontario hospitals jumped by 279 overnight, an increase of over 15%.

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Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) president and CEO Anthony Dale said that based on publicly available data from Critical Care Services Ontario (CCSO) and the Ministry of Health, COVID-19 related hospitalizations in Ontario increased to 2,081 from 1,802 on Jan. 3.

“Hospitalization of confirmed and suspected COVID patients has effectively matched the highest level ever reached in the pandemic to date.,” Dale said Wednesday.

Public Health Ontario (PHO) released new information that indicated the risk of hospitalization from Omicon was 65% lower than with the Delta variant, and that vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals were less likely to experience severe illness.

“While severity is likely to be reduced, the absolute number of hospitalizations and impact on the healthcare system may nevertheless be significant due to the increased transmissibility of Omicron,” the PHO report says.

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Ontario reported 11,582 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday, although that figure is believed to vastly underrepresent actual case numbers due to widespread community transmission of the Omicron variant and testing priorities and limits.

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The province recorded another 14 COVID-related deaths.

Of the 2,081 COVID-19 patients in hospital, 288 were in intensive care, up from 167 a month earlier.

COVID-19 patients were occupying approximately 12% of all adult ICU beds across the province compared to 64% occupied for non-Covid-related health issues.

Hospitals noted 1,073 fully vaccinated COVID-19 patients, 108 partially vaccinated and 417 unvaccinated individuals.

The unvaccinated were 109 of ICU cases, compared to 86 fully vaccinated patients and 14 partially vaccinated.

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These figures may not cover all hospital patients as new data arrives regularly.

In an update on nursing homes, the province reported 571 cases of COVID-19 in residents and 1,027 cases in staff.

There were 54 nursing homes currently in outbreak with no resident cases.

  1. Exterior view of William Osler Health Centre's Brampton Civic Hospital.

    Ontario hospitals gear up for growing pressure from Omicron

  2. The current crisis in hospitals didn't begin with the pandemic but with years of chronic understaffing, the Ontario Nurses' Association (ONA) says.

    Hospital crisis long time in the making, nurses’ association says

  3. An ambulance in Toronto.

    Staffing shortages burning out Toronto paramedics

Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca said the Doug Ford government should call in the military to assist with severe staffing shortages at hospitals,

“We believe that it’s so important for Doug Ford to pick up the phone and to call the Prime Minister (Justin Trudeau) and reach out to the federal government to seek support and help from Canada’s military to come into Ontario to help deal with the challenges that we have in both nursing homes and hospitals,” Del Duca said Wednesday. “We saw over the last few days that our next door neighbours in Quebec reached out and asked for military help with the vaccine rollout and they received it.”

aartuso@postmedia.com

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