Toronto doctors warn that the increase in COVID-19 cases in Ontario puts hospitals in a precarious situation and that the number of intensive care patients could soon eclipse the pandemic peak seen in January.
The Scarborough Health Network has arranged for 10 of its intensive care patients to be transferred to hospitals as far away as Kingston and Peterborough over the past week, said Dr Martin Betts, medical director and head of the intensive care program.
The moves were prompted by an alarming internal projection: The health network predicts that by mid-April it will see a 38% increase in critical care cases from its peak in second wave, Betts said on Saturday. .
“It’s a race between the variants and the capacity of the ICU right now,” he said. “From what I’ve seen over the past few weeks, the variants are winning. “
“We know that other hospitals in the GTA are approaching capacity depending on the frequency of Criticall requests we receive,” he added, referring to the department responsible for tracking available beds in the healthcare system. from Ontario.
The doctors’ warnings come as the province reported 2,453 new COVID-19 cases and 16 more deaths on Saturday – with cases surpassing 2,000 for a third day in a row – and the provincial government plans to ease restrictions even further, allowing hair salons to open in Toronto and the Region of Peel in April.
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, warned on Saturday that current health orders were not enough to stop the rapid growth of COVID-19. The restrictions must be stronger, stricter and maintained long enough to control the rise of the worrisome variants, she said in a written statement.
“With the increasing circulation of highly contagious variants, the threat of uncontrolled epidemic growth is considerably high,” Tam said.
There were 401 COVID-19 patients in Ontario’s ICUs on Friday, according to figures from Critical Care Services Ontario. The number fell to 386 on Saturday, but medics expect it to rise as worrying variants fuel the third wave.
Anthony Dale, president and CEO of the Ontario Hospital Association, warned an open letter that if the number continues to rise, hospitals “will come under extraordinary pressure to try to ensure equitable access to life-saving critical care.”
“In this third wave, we are facing a different kind of pandemic,” he said. “UK variant B.1.1.7 takes over with much faster doubling time and more severe health effects in younger populations. Patients arrive at the hospital younger and sicker than in previous waves, and they need more care. “
At Michael Garron Hospital, Dr Michael Warner says his staff do not face the same capacity issues that have led some hospitals to transfer intensive care patients out of town, but one case is of particular concern to him: a COVID-19 patient in his early 30s. .
The previously healthy 30-something, whose family gave Warner permission to discuss her case on CP24, was infected with a worrying variant in early March. Two weeks later, they were on a ventilator in the intensive care unit, Warner said. A rapid decline.
Warner says loosening the restrictions right now is a bad move.
“The Prime Minister’s public health decisions do not match the reality of intensive care units in the Greater Toronto Area,” he said.
Alexandra Hilkene, press secretary to Health Minister Christine Elliott, did not respond to questions but provided an email statement: “Active work continues with our hospital partners and other healthcare organizations across the province to ensure our health care system has the tools and resources it needs. to respond to the evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic. “
With files from The Canadian Press