More surgeries postponed due to overwhelming number of flu cases

By Amanda Ferguson

More elective surgeries are being postponed at two GTA hospitals as severe flu cases continue to overwhelm emergency departments and ICUs, CityNews has learned.

Several elective surgeries have been cancelled at Etobicoke General Hospital (EGH) as patients with severe influenza complications require beds and acute care in its ICU.

Dr. Frank Martino, chief of staff at EGH, said procedures like hernia repair, abdominal and gynecologic surgeries have been postponed for about a month while flu cases continue to impact all areas of the hospital.

“We’ve had to cancel some surgeries,” Martino said. “We try not to cancel cancer surgery, but we have to cancel some elective surgeries that can hopefully wait and often they can wait.”

Michael Garron Hospital, formerly Toronto East General Hospital, told CityNews last week it has postponed seven cancer surgeries as a result of a shortage of beds in the ICU since December.

On average, the patients have had to wait less than a week to get the required surgery. In each case, the patients received care within the targeted wait times set out by Ontario’s Ministry of Health.

“Sometimes these surgeries require an ICU bed, and the aim is to clear the floor and move patients out of the ICU, so those critical patients who may have cancer who need a critical care bed can move into that bed,” Martino said.

This, as both EGH and Brampton Civic Hospital have been in a state dubbed Code Gridlock — when a hospital reaches and exceeds its capacity — for more than 30 days.

As of Thursday morning, 31 patients were being treated in hallways at EGH and 48 in Brampton Civic Hospital.

A man told CityNews his father was being in treated in the hallway of EGH for six days before finally being moved to a bed.

Dr. Sameer D’Souza, chief of the emergency department at EGH, said his hospital is seeing unprecedented numbers of people seeking treatment in the ER.

“What we’ve done is come up with novel ways of expanding our capacity,” he said. “We’re not going to compromise ever on timely care — we never compromise on patient safety — but what we’ve done is increase our capacity. We’ve built an emerg around an emerg.”

Health Minister Eric Hoskins said the province has made major investments in hospitals, including $1 billion in new funding over the last two years.

“We’ve seen significant improvements across the province, including Etobicoke, as a result of the investments that we’ve made in not just those 1,200 acute-care beds announced last fall but also approximately 600 transitional spaces,” he said.

He also said it’s important to consider that Ontario is past the peak in Influenza A cases.

“The minister can try to turn the tables as much as he wants and play political games, but nobody — none of these families and the thousands of others that we don’t even know about who have faced the terrible situation in our hospital system — buy it for a minute,” said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.

For the week ending Feb. 10, the most recent numbers available, there were 1,624 cases of the flu in Ontario — a 22-per-cent increase from the week before.

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