Hospitals can begin to resume non-urgent procedures as drop in COVID cases continues

The surgical backlog is well over 250,000 procedures

As Ontario reported the lowest daily COVID-19 case count in eight weeks on Wednesday, hospitals have been given the green light to resume non-emergency surgeries if they have the capacity.

In a memo to hospitals, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health cautioned it will not be uniform across the province.

“At this point in time, new cases, hospitalizations, and ICU admissions appear to be trending downward,” Dr. David Williams wrote in the memo. 

“While these numbers remain high and we continue to see demand for health services related to COVID-19, we are beginning to see available capacity among community and hospital partners in some areas of the province.”

Williams ordered non-emergency procedures to be halted provincewide on April 20, as hospitalizations and admissions to ICU were rapidly climbing. 

The number of people hospitalized with the virus as of Wednesday was 1,401. It peaked at 2,360 on April 19.

There are 735 people in intensive care units today compared to 900 earlier this month.

“As new COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and ICU admissions continue to trend downward, Ontario has given hospitals the green light to gradually and cautiously begin ramping up non-emergent and non-urgent surgeries and procedures. This is a hopeful sign, however, before resuming procedures, hospitals must meet the criteria outlined by Ontario Health. The initial focus will be on the resumption of outpatient and day surgeries that don’t require an inpatient bed to ensure hospitals can continue to respond to an increase in COVID patients. Hospitals must also continue to ensure beds, and staff, are available to support the province’s critical care needs and remain ready to accept patient transfers from the GTA,” said Janice Skot, RVH President and CEO.

“Given RVH’s regional critical care role, and the ongoing GTA patient transfers to our health centre, our clinical team is developing a safe, gradual ramp-up plan while continuing to provide emergency surgeries and procedures. We do not yet have an exact timeline for the resumption of non-emergency procedures, although we recognize that patients are anxious to have their surgeries and procedures re-scheduled. RVH’s Surgery program will work with physicians and other health centre teams to develop a ramp-up schedule and begin the process of identifying patients who meet the same-day surgery criteria.”

The surgical backlog province-wide is well over 250,000 procedures.

The Financial Accountability Office has said the backlog could reach 419,200 procedures by the end of September and will likely take the province three-and-a-half years to clear at a cost of $1.3 billion.

NDP leader Andrea Horwath said in a news release today that “the pandemic may have been more brutal and deadly in Ontario than it needed to be.”

The NDP repeated its call on Wednesday for a full judicial inquiry into the Ford government’s handling of the pandemic.

The NDP wants the inquiry to begin in September and cover nine issues, including protection of residents in long-term care; the speed of the response; supports for workers and businesses; and the province’s vaccine rollout.