Ontario turns to other provinces for 'urgently needed' help with overloaded ICUs
TORONTO -- Premier Doug Ford's government is reaching out to every single province and territory asking for help with health-care resources as the third wave of COVID-19 inundates Ontario's intensive care units (ICU) and overwhelms physicians and nurses.
In a letter sent to the other provinces and territories, Ontario's Ministry of Health is acknowledging that the province's ICUs are becoming "increasingly strained" leading to an estimated gap in staffing of around 4,145 nurses over the next four months.
The province has been racing to create more ICU space after modelling projections from the University of Toronto forecast roughly 1,000 patients would require critical care by the end of April.
As of Thursday, there were 653 patients in critical care -- including nine adult patients in paediatric ICUs, according to the Ontario Hospital Association.
The province ordered Ontario hospitals to ramp down surgeries this week freeing up additional beds -- including an expected 350 this week -- ramping up the province's total ICU capacity to 2,500.
While the province has issued emergency orders to redeploy home care nursing staff into Ontario hospitals, the letter suggests the measures won't adequately fill the gaps in staffing, leading to the call for "urgently needed health human resources."
"In order to meet the anticipated demands following the peak of Ontario’s third wave, we are seeking the assistance of 620 professionals to support Ontario hospitals," reads the letter from Deputy Minister of Health Helen Angus.
The request for health-care workers includes:
• 500 Nurses (ICU/Critical Care/recovery room/general)
• 100 Respiratory Therapists
• 10 Perfusionists
• 10 Anesthesia Assistants
The bulk of the incoming health-care resources would be deployed in the Greater Toronto Area and immediate surrounding areas, the letter states, which have been overloaded with hospitalizations due to the virus.
The province is offering to pay health-care workers "temporary relocation expenses" for the move and says the length-of-stay would depend on Ontario's COVID-19 caseload and ICU capacity.
While it's unclear whether other provinces have the ability to spare health-care workers during the third wave, Newfoundland Premier Andrew Furey indicated the province would be wiling to pitch in.
“I offered whatever assistance we could provide within our capacity. Of course Ontario is much bigger than we are, but I think that this needs to be a Canadian effort,” Furey told reporters on Wednesday after speaking with Premier Doug Ford over the phone.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has already denied Ontario's request, saying that his priority must be the health and wellbeing of people within his province.
"With COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations on a sharp rise here in Alberta, we are simply not in a position to send our health-care workers outside the province at this time," he said.