Premier Doug Ford faces pressure to prevent a crisis as hospital systems warn that Omicron is increasing patient numbers dramatically while more and more healthcare professionals isolate at home with symptoms.
Ontario reported its largest one-day increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations of the pandemic on Wednesday, prompting opposition parties to call on the progressive conservative government to take bolder steps to prepare for an attack by patients.
The new Democrats and Liberals called on Ford to enlist the help of Canadian Armed Forces in hospitals and nursing homes, where COVID-19 outbreaks are rising sharply, act faster to accredit foreign-trained nurses and free doctors and nurses from vaccination centers by replacing them. . with dentists and other injection-qualified healthcare professionals.
“There are urgent steps to be taken to ensure that a tough situation does not get so much worse,” Liberal leader Steven Del Duca said at a news conference.
NDP leader Andrea Horwath said Ford misses a chance to strengthen the system in part by scrapping Bill 124, which limited wage increases for nurses and other public works before the pandemic hit.
“There are a lot of frontline health workers who have gone away who are burnt out and have left the profession. We need a strategy to get those people back.”
Horwath argued against re-employing nurses and other health workers who were laid off by some hospitals for refusing to be vaccinated, saying it would pour “gas on the fire” by increasing the risk of infection.
The number of patients in the hospital with COVID-19 peaked at 2,000 on Wednesday. That’s an increase of about 800 from the previous day and nearly tripled the level a week ago, though the number includes hundreds who require care for other conditions but test positive for coronavirus.
Nevertheless, hospitals in Brampton, Etobicoke, Hamilton, Niagara, Chatham and Sarnia say they are hitting critical levels of demand. Hospitals across the province have been instructed by the province to cancel up to 10,000 non-emergency surgeries a week to deal with the latest pandemic increase.
“This directive extends to independent out-of-hospital health clinics and prevents them from performing non-emergency operations that require surgical nursing or anesthesia support or any” high-risk surgery that may result in someone being sent to the emergency room, “he said. the Minister of Health. Christine Elliott’s office.
Chatham-Kent Health Alliance CEO Lori Marshall said on Wednesday that three COVID-intensive patients had been transferred to London hospital, citing “the most significant demand for hospital services that we have seen … throughout the pandemic.”
Ford warned Monday that Ontario is facing one “tsunami” of the highly contagious but less severe Omicron variant, and hospitals may be overwhelmed by the end of the month. To deal with it, he announced a return to online learning and new restrictions, including closures of indoor restaurants, gyms, cinemas and other venues.
After firing back at the opposition parties by just five months until the June 2 provincial election, Health Minister Christine Elliott’s office said surgery delays would free up between 1,200 and 1,500 hospital beds, noting that 4,300 people, such as retired doctors or paramedics and dentists, have signed up. voluntarily. to serve at vaccination clinics with 1,400 sent to immunization training to date.
There are already nurses trained abroad who are approved to work in “selected hospitals with high needs” to alleviate staff shortages, Elliott spokeswoman Alexandra Hilkene added.
“We will continue to work with our health and hospital partners to ensure they receive the support they need and will not hesitate to take further steps.”
At this point, occupancy in intensive care units throughout the province remains well within the capacity of 288 COVID patients – however, that number has increased from 190 patients a week ago, and the Ontario Hospital Association said Wednesday that there have been 124 adults admitted to the intensive care unit in the last three days.
Hamilton Health Sciences CEO Rob MacIsaac warned of exponential growth in COVID cases meaning that “we have very limited capacity to receive a significant new number of patients.”
In Sarnia, Bluewater Health said half of its ICU beds are filled with COVID pneumonia patients and five times the usual number of sick leavers, forcing double shifts and canceled vacations.
“We have end-of-life discussions with families of patients of all ages – not just older ages,” said CEO Mike Lapaine and Chief of Staff Dr. Mike Haddad in a note in which they urged area residents to stay home and avoid staying home. socialization.
The Niagara Health System will temporarily close its Fort Erie Emergency Department from Thursday at 7 p.m. 23 to “relocate” its physicians and nurses to its hospital campuses.
“This wave of pandemics is beyond anything we have experienced,” CEO Lynn Guerriero said in a letter to the community, asking family doctors and primary clinics in Fort Erie to extend their opening hours.
On Monday, the William Osler Health System, which operates the Brampton Civic and Etobicoke General hospitals, declared a “code orange” due to the number of patients and moved more than a dozen out to hospitals in Toronto to make room for more.
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