NEWS
12/17/2020 11:44 EST | Updated 12/17/2020 15:04 EST

Ontario Hospitals Warn Christmas Gatherings Could Exceed Health-Care System's Capacity

A “devastating surge” in coronavirus patients is possible in January.

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Doctors are seen caring for a patient in a stock photo.

TORONTO — Ontario’s health-care workers are exhausted and need the public to adhere strictly to public health advice in order to avoid overwhelming the system in January, the Ontario Hospital Association said Thursday.

“The situation is extremely serious. We are now in the holiday season and if members of the public choose to ignore public health measures and gather outside their households, the consequences risk overwhelming Ontario’s hospitals. Every health care system has its breaking point,” the association said in a press release. 

There were 919 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Ontario Thursday, including 263 in intensive care units (ICUs) and 172 on ventilators. The province also reported 2,432 new cases Thursday, a new record high, and 23 more deaths. 

Ontario said in April it had just under 25,000 total acute care beds and 3,504 ICU beds with 2,811 ventilators. According to CP24, on Monday there were 1,765 patients in ICU in the province.

Earlier: 

 

Hospitals also need to catch up on the 150,000 scheduled surgeries that were cancelled in the first wave of the pandemic, the association said.

Premier Doug Ford’s government needs to put more regions into four-week lockdowns and consider strengthening lockdown rules to avoid a “devastating surge” in COVID-19 patients in January, the hospitals said. 

“If we rally once again as a province and a country, we will beat this virus – and that will be the right time to celebrate together.”

Ford told reporters Thursday that he’s in regular contact with hospital CEOs and the association.

“It’s very, very concerning the situation we’re facing,” the premier said.

Premier of Ontario/YouTube
Ontario Premier Doug Ford speaks to reporters by teleconference from George Brown College in Toronto on Dec. 17, 2020.

“There are so many things to consider … I will not hesitate to do whatever it takes to slow down this trend that we see and get it back well within the numbers we can control in our hospitals right now. That’s the scary part.”

He said a doctor told him Wednesday he had to cancel surgery for a 42-year-old with cancer because there was no capacity.

“We just can’t keep going in the way we’re going because the ICU beds are taken up from COVID patients,” Ford said.

Doctors join call for action

The Ontario Medical Association, which represents 43,000 doctors and medical students, made a call similar to the hospitals.

Ford needs to lock down the entire Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area until after New Year’s and extend school breaks, “to stop the alarming rise in COVID cases that threaten to overwhelm hospitals and other health-care services,” it said Thursday.

“Another record 2,432 confirmed cases of COVID were reported in Ontario today and the latest worst-case modelling says that number could rise to 10,000 a day in January. Hospitals are already preparing for a surge in cases over the holidays and doctors are worried about whether there will be enough resources to care for everybody.”

Ontario’s chief medical officer of health said last Thursday that Ontarians should only celebrate with people in their households this holiday season. Dr. David Williams said this is a good precaution for people in yellow zones and “critical” for people in orange, red or grey lockdown zones. 

See what zone your region is in here.

Toronto, Peel, York and Windsor-Essex are in lockdown. Every health unit in southwestern and eastern Ontario — from Ottawa to Simcoe to Chatham-Kent — is in yellow or above. Some northern health units — the Northwestern Health Unit, Thunder Bay and Sudbury — are also yellow or orange zones.

“I know there’s that Christmas song, ‘There’s no place like home for the holidays,’” Dr. Williams said. “We mean home and stay home, your household only.”