Province issues emergency orders to increase ICU capacity as COVID-19 cases surge

A record number of COVID-19 patients were in Ontario ICUs as of Friday

In a bid to ease the burden on the health-care system, the provincial government has invoked two emergency orders to help increase intensive care unit capacity as COVID-19 cases continue to climb.

In a news release issued Friday evening, the province said the orders will allow hospitals to transfer patients to another hospital without obtaining their consent during “major surge events.”

Ontario Health and Home and Community Care Support Services organizations will have the authority to redeploy health-care professionals and other staff to hospitals swamped with COVID-19 patients.

“With Ontario’s hospitals facing unprecedented critical care capacity pressures during the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, our government is taking immediate action to ensure no capacity nor resource in Ontario’s hospitals goes untapped,” Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said in a statement.

“Together with the provincewide stay-at-home order, these measures will help to ensure that hospitals continue to have the staffing and resources they need to care for patients. We continue to work with our hospital and health care partners to fight this deadly virus, and I want to thank all of Ontario’s frontline health care workers for their tireless work each day to protect the health and safety of Ontarians.”

The province said the measures are expected to increase ICU capacity by up to 1,000 beds. The order will remain in place for 14 days unless it’s revoked or extended.

The move comes a day after most hospitals in the province, except some in northern Ontario, were instructed to halt elective surgeries and non-emergency/non-urgent activities as a record number of COVID-19 patients are being treated in intensive care units.

Ontario Health President and CEO Matthew Anderson released a memo on Thursday to hospital CEOs and primary care providers telling most hospitals across the province to scale back elective surgeries as of 12:01 a.m. on Apr. 12.