Provincial health officials call on hospitals to prepare surge capacity plans within 48 hours

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Ontario Health CEO calls on hospitals across the province to be ready to activate their surge capacity plans within 48 hours as an increase in COVID-19 cases threatens the health care system’s ability to effectively care for patients .

In a memo to hospital CEOs on Tuesday, Ontario Health President Matt Anderson said the province has entered a “critical phase” of the pandemic, where community transmission is widespread.

“Our ability to care for patients (COVID and not COVID) is in question, so we are asking hospitals to work together, even more, to ensure that we can continue to have the capacity to bed to care for patients, so safe and effective, ”Anderson wrote in the memo.

“With this in mind, I ask that, if you haven’t already, hospitals immediately begin working with their regional / sub-regional COVID-19 response structures, or Incident Management Systems (IMS), to be ready and / or activate peak capacity planning within 48 hours to support efforts in your regions. ”

The memo calls for gray and red regions of the multi-level framework of the province – in fact most of the GTA – to ensure at least 10-15% of peak capacity of staffed adult inpatient beds. for COVID-19 within 48 hours.

In an email to CP24, a spokeswoman for Health Minister Christine Elliott said the province was closely monitoring the situation in hospitals.

“The situation we are seeing in our hospitals is a reflection of the spread of COVID-19 in the community. Now more than ever, it is essential that all Ontarians continue to follow public health advice to help stop the spread of the virus. Everyone has a role to play in protecting each other and maintaining the capacity of the health system, ”the statement said.

“We continue to monitor developments closely and are committed to working with our partners to ensure hospitals across the province have the capacity to provide care to any Ontarians who require hospitalization.

The memo comes as the province reported 2,275 new cases on Tuesday, breaking its previous one-day high.

It is also happening when Ontario’s intensive care units (ICUs) see more patients than at any time in the pandemic so far.

While the arrival of new vaccines recently provided much needed light at the end of the tunnel, public health officials have warned that it will take several months to vaccinate enough people so that COVID-19 is no longer a threat. major for the population. Officials also warned that hospitals could be overwhelmed and many people could still die if regular infection prevention measures such as physical distancing, hand washing and refraining from unnecessary gatherings are not followed.

In a tweet Tuesday afternoon, Ontario Hospital Association president Anthony Dale said the organization’s board will hold an emergency meeting on Wednesday to discuss the “imminent risk of crushing conditions ”in hospitals across the province due to COVID-19.

Speaking to CP24 on Tuesday evening, infectious disease specialist Dr Abdu Sharkawy said the hospital alert came as no surprise.

“We have seen some really big stress points in the Greater Toronto Area. In particular, places like Brampton and Scarborough have been overwhelmed for some time, ”he said. “They sent distress calls all over town and transferred their patients to many facilities, including ours here at the University Health Network.

Sharkawy said the record number of cases, combined with testing targets that do not match the province’s target, indicates that “things are clearly getting worse.”

“We need to be prepared to deal with a potential patient attack and do all we can to ensure that patients can be safely discharged from the hospital with additional community resources as quickly as possible and to create a level of preparation in our intensive care units. well who can handle a number of critically ill patients admitted anytime over the next few days, ”said Sharkawy.

He noted that even though the situation is serious, people with serious health problems should not refrain from seeking treatment in hospital.

“Please understand that the hospital is always a very safe environment,” Sharkawy said. “I feel very safe here, with my peers, my colleagues, my colleagues. Don’t delay in coming to the hospital. We are ready, we want to help you, we don’t want you to wait until you are too sick for the care you deserve.

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