By ALI RAZA, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Michael Garron Hospital in East York has 20 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, and it’s preparing for more as the province’s health agencies warn of a surge in cases while asking the province for a four-week lockdown.
Public health agency Ontario Health told hospitals to prepare emergency plans immediately and clear up to 10 to 15 per cent of hospital beds for anticipated COVID-19 patients, citing a spike in cases as Ontario’s daily count continues to be above 2,000.
Major news media outlets had received a copy of the memo and reported it on Dec. 15.
The Beach Metro News asked MGH what preparations it was taking in response to the memo, and programs vice president Mark Fam said the hospital has been preparing for the anticipated spike in cases since the summer.
“We know that every year the cold winter months and holiday season trigger an increase in demand for health and community care services,” Fam said.
“Our teams started planning in July and August in anticipation of community and COVID-19 surge and put procedures in place to activate surge capacity plans to quickly ramp up or reduce services when necessary.”
The hospital has opened 14 acute beds six weeks in advance of the winter surge, and 46 off-site alternate level of care (ALC) Beds for patients awaiting transition to long-term care.
“This additional capacity has helped us to manage our current patient volumes and demands on the hospital system,” Fam said.
On Thursday, Dec. 17, the Ontario Hospital Association, chaired by MGH CEO and President Sarah Downey, issued a statement asking the province to place regions with a 40 per 100,000 case rate in a four-week lockdown. Under the province’s COVID-19 framework, that means a lockdown in all regions that Ontario has declared red zones.
The statement was signed by Downey, OHA board of directors, and hospital CEOs, presidents, and board members from across the province.
“We ask for understanding and support as we reluctantly and with deep regret recommend that as a minimum, the government implement and robustly enforce a four-week lockdown,” the statement read.
It also recommends the province’s grey/lockdown category to be “rapidly re-evaluated” to determine if stricter provisions are necessary. OHA added its important that the general public follow health guidelines during the holiday season.
“If members of the public choose to ignore public health measures and gather outside their households, the consequences risk overwhelming Ontario’s hospitals,” the statement read. “Every health system has its breaking point.”
On Dec. 17, Ontario reported a record 2,432 cases of COVID-19, with 737 in Toronto, and 434 in Peel. Toronto and Peel have been under lockdown for just about three weeks, yet cases have continued to rise. The day before on Dec. 16, Toronto had reported a record 780 cases in one day.
This week, hospitalizations in Ontario due to COVID-19 passed 900, the first time since May. The total number is 921, as of Dec. 16, with 249 of those patients in intensive care, and 159 requiring a ventilator.
Hospitals in Scarborough and Peel Region have already cancelled scheduled surgeries, and with the new orders more cancellations are expected to follow.
Ali Raza is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter for Beach Metro News. His reporting is funded by the Government of Canada through its Local Journalism Initiative.