As surging COVID-19 infections intensify the strain on the province’s health-care system, hospitals have been told by the Ontario government to prepare for the transfer of potentially hundreds of patients across regions.
In a memo to hospitals Thursday obtained by CityNews, Ontario Health president and CEO Matthew Anderson said they must be ready to accept patients from other hospitals in and outside their regions, “when directed by their regional COVID-19 response structure.”
According to the memo, updated projections show the province will see more than 500 COVID-19 patients in intensive care units, and more than 1,700 hospitalizations related to the virus before the end of the month.
Several Toronto area hospitals announced Thursday they are closing their pediatric wards to help create adult inpatient capacity.
A message to parents: St. Joseph’s Health Centre is working with SickKids to help create adult inpatient capacity. Starting today, pediatric patients who need to be hospitalized, may be transferred to SickKids. Read our statement about the shift. https://t.co/UojNPY9h5V
— Unity Health Toronto (@UnityHealthTO) January 7, 2021
Unity Health Toronto said in a statement its St. Joseph’s site, along with William Osler Health System and Humber River Hospital, may transfer pediatric patients who need to be hospitalized to SickKids, where there is capacity.
“Our youngest patients remain a top priority, and we continue to provide consultative, neonatal and ambulatory care for all our pediatric patients, including at our Just For Kids Clinic, Paediatric Consultation Clinic and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit,” said the statement.
In the memo Anderson goes on to list “additional actions that hospitals must take immediately” to make sure people get the care they need.
Hospitals that have unoccupied intensive care beds must reserve approximately one-third of those beds for transfers from hospitals that have no ICU capacity.
Modelling indicates combined ICU needs of COVID & non COVID patients will exceed available capacity by late Feb. This requires #TeamOntario approach. Large scale transfers of patients will be necessary as we strive for equal access to critical care. #onhealth #onpoli
— Anthony Dale (@AnthonyDaleOHA) January 7, 2021
The transfers of ICU patients between hospitals will be managed by the Ontario-wide Critical Care COVID-19 Command Centre.
Hospitals in COVID hotspots will continue “time-sensitive” surgeries and procedures, including certain cancer treatments, transplants, cardiac and neurological care. And the hospitals must “have a plan in place to appropriately defer non-time-sensitive care.”
“We need to work as a provincial system at a level never required before,” Anderson said in the memo. “This means that no hospitals should feel they are on their own.”