‘Premier Ford, if you’re going to make a move, let’s make it today’: ICU doctor pleads for further COVID-19 restrictions
Published Thursday, November 19, 2020 11:38AM EST
Last Updated Thursday, November 19, 2020 2:18PM EST
An ICU physician in Toronto is pleading with Premier Doug Ford to take action now to implement tighter restrictions as COVID-19 patients in intensive care units (ICU) continue to surge across the province.
On Thursday, the province reached the 150-bed threshold for COVID-19 patients in ICUs, according to data from Critical Care Services Ontario (CCSO) obtained by CTV News.
The data also suggests there are currently a total of 1,737 patients in ICUs in Ontario.
Meeting the 150 threshold is worrisome as hospitals might soon become overwhelmed with ICU patients.
"This is something that has been calculated in terms of allowing enough beds in the ICU to continue with elective surgery and other patients who normally come through to the hospital with conditions that require ICU care and treatment. If it goes over 150 for COVID then it will impact negatively on people requiring ICU care for other reasons," Associate Medical Officer of Health Dr. Barbara Yaffe said during a press conference on Thursday.
Dr. Michael Warner, from Michael Garron Hospital, posted on social media about his concerns with the new data and compared it to the first wave of the pandemic in mid-April when nearly 1,300 patients (for COVID and non-COVID related illnesses) were in ICUs.
“There are more than 400 more patients in ICUs in Ontario and we’re on a trajectory to have more COVID patients in ICUs than we did in wave one,” Warner said in a Twitter post.
Provincial health officials reported only 146 patients in ICUs across the province on Thursday, up from 127 on Wednesday.
Warner said there is a discrepancy between the government's data and CCSO's numbers because the government "pares down their list."
"What the province does is if we do a COVID test on someone two or three weeks after they’ve been admitted with COVID-19 and it becomes negative...the government would take that patient off the COVID list, whereas we and the ICU services will keep that patient as one of our COVID patients because that makes more sense," Warner told CP24 in an interview on Thursday.
"They were admitted with COVID-19, we still treat them as if they have COVID-19, and just because a test becomes negative doesn't mean they never had COVID-19."
CP24 has reached out to the Ministry of Health for a comment on removing patients from provincial COVID-19 hospitalization data but has not yet received a response.
The Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) responded to the new ICU numbers and said some hospitals are starting to feel overwhelmed.
“This means that some Ontario hospitals face heightened pressures in maintaining access to other vital surgeries and procedures. Please know that given the gravity of the situation, hospitals will continue to do everything possible to maintain access to services for patients who need care," OHA said in a statement on Thursday.
In Warner’s Twitter post, he went on to say that with today’s grim milestone the province is headed down a path seen in the first wave where elective surgeries were postponed.
“This means we’re going to have to limit access to non-COVID related care. Cancel surgeries, cancel cancer surgeries, cancel hip replacements, knee replacements. We don’t want to do this. We can’t do this, people die if we do this,” Warner said.
Health Minister Christine Elliott was asked about the status of elective surgeries now that Ontario has passed the 150 threshold and said hospitals will continue to do as many surgeries as possible to avoid postponing them again.
"We are still bringing more beds online, that was part of an announcement several weeks ago. And we are also taking a look at regional surgical issues rather than per hospital. So we can make sure that if there is a hospital that still has some capacity and they are able to do cancer surgeries or orthopedic surgeries that patients can be moved from one hospital to another hospital so they can continue to have those procedures conducted," Elliott said at Queen's Park on Thursday.
"It is really important that we continue doing as many of those surgeries as we can because it is tragic to lose a family member to COVID but equally tragic to lose someone because they didn’t have a cancer surgery or cardiac surgery done in a timely manner," she added.
Warner also noted that the 150 threshold is being met about five days ahead of the government’s modelling predictions released last week, however the modelling table did say when it released the data that it expected ICU capacity to exceed that threshold "within two weeks."
The government's modelling table also predicted that COVID-19 patients in ICUs would exceed 400 beds under the worst-case scenarios by mid-December.
Warner is pleading with the premier to take action now to curb the spread of the virus.
“Premier Ford, if you’re going to make a move, let’s make it today. Let’s not announce it tomorrow to be implemented Monday. We need to keep the health-care system accessible to all patients whether they have COVID or not,” he said in his post.
Warner is referring to Ford’s remarks made during a press conference on Wednesday where he said he expects to announce further restrictions for COVID-19 hot spots “in the coming days.”
“The virus is spreading at an alarming rate in these areas and I can’t stress this enough, the situation is extremely, extremely serious,” Ford said on Wednesday. “Right now, we're staring down the barrel of another lockdown in these regions.”
Currently, the hot spots of Toronto, Peel Region, York, Hamilton and Halton are in the province’s “red” restrict level of it’s COVID-19 restrictions framework. The “red” zone is the fourth level of the five-tiered model. The final level is a lockdown.
Ford hinted that he will announce new restrictions on Friday.