Ontario adds about 2,500 hospital beds in preparation for surge of COVID-19 cases
TORONTO -- The Ontario government has said the province is now prepared for a surge of COVID-19 cases, having added more than 2,500 acute and critical care beds to their hospitals.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced the increased hospital capacity alongside Health Minister Christine Elliott and Minister of Long-Term Care Dr. Merrilee Fullerton at Queen’s Park on Thursday.
Ford said that 1,035 acute care beds and 1,492 critical care bed are now available to deal with a sudden increase in COVID-19 patients.
“This terrible virus is a ruthless killer and we are all at risk, but the sad truth is, this virus preys on the most vulnerable,” Ford said. “The situation is unprecedented and I can promise you we are working around the clock to find solutions to problems we, as a province, have never faced before.”
Of the province’s 3,504 critical care beds, officials say about 2,811 are now equipped with ventilators, up from 1,319 available previously.
The premier added that he hopes about 4,200 more acute care beds will be available by the end of the month.
Elliott said that officials have been operating under the presumption that “the worst will occur,” adding that the province has been planning for every contingency.
“We are prepared to respond to a surge in cases should it occur. We are ready to protect the health and wellbeing of Ontarians.”
In addition to an increase of hospital beds, the province said they will be redeploying surgical nursing staff to other medical units. They will also be recruiting family doctors to complete shifts at hospitals and will share “physician resources” across regional hospitals.
“It’s because of these efforts that we are able to redeploy resources to our long-term care homes,” Ford said.
Ford announced increased measures to keep vulnerable people in long-term care homes safe during the pandemic on Wednesday.
The plan, which Ford described as “fortifying the ring” around such residences, will include stricter testing and screening measures in homes facing outbreaks as well as ensuring these facilities are always stocked with personal protective equipment.
"We will stop at nothing to protect those who cannot protect themselves," Ford said at a news conference on Wednesday.
The minister of long-term care laid out the specifics of the plan, dubbed Ontario’s COVID-19 Action Plan for Long-Term Care Homes.
"Over the next 48 hours, we will be launching more aggressive testing, screening and surveillance by screening all symptomatic staff and residents, as well as asymptomatic contacts of confirmed cases," Fullerton said.
Moreover, Fullerton says that testing will begin for asymptomatic residents and staff in “select homes” across the province to better understand how COVID-19 is spreading.
Fullerton said that the province will utilize “rapid deployment teams” from local hospitals to assist with infection prevention and control in affected facilities.