Some Toronto hospitals seeing surge in COVID-19 patients in ICU: critical care doctor
Paramedics stand by their ambulances at Toronto Western Hospital in Toronto on Tuesday October 27, 2020. The hospital has declared a COVID-19 outbreak and has closed some wards. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Published Tuesday, December 1, 2020 12:13PM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, December 1, 2020 2:05PM EST
A critical care doctor says some Toronto hospitals are seeing a surge in COVID-19 patients in their intensive care units as infections in the province continue to rise.
Dr. Michael Warner, the medical director of critical care at Michael Garron Hospital, told CP24 Tuesday that while about 14 per cent of all intensive care (ICU) patients in the city are infected with COVID-19, some hospitals have seen that number climb to as high as 40 per cent.
Toronto Public Health says in total, there are 249 patients infected with COVID-19 that are hospitalized in the city, including 81 within Scarborough Health Network.
"The numbers are not looking good," Warner said.
Ontario reported 1,707 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and a provincewide positivity rate of more than five per cent.
According to data released by the province on Tuesday, there are now 645 people with COVID-19 receiving treatment in Ontario hospitals, with 185 of those patients in intensive care.
Warner said Tuesday that over the past 24 hours, another 26 COVID-19 patients are now in the ICU at hospitals across the province and the total number of intensive care admissions is actually closer to 193.
ICU occupancy of more than 150 in Ontario challenges the health-care system’s ability to keep up with scheduled surgeries and other elective procedures.
Health Minister Christine Elliott confirmed Tuesday that some hospitals have been forced to cancel non-emergency procedures due to capacity issues, including Scarborough General Hospital.
“We know there are some hospitals that are in the hot zones that are already having to shut down, somewhat, their non-emergency procedures,” Elliott said at a news conference on Tuesday afternoon. “We are following this very carefully.”
She added that the province has worked to expand capacity in its hospitals since the first wave of the pandemic.
“One of our major parts of our fall preparedness plan was to make sure that we have the capacity in our hospitals... to continue with these surgeries because we know that as tragic as it is to have lost a loved one to COVID, it would be equally tragic to lose someone because of a cancer surgery or a cardiac surgery that wasn’t performed in time,” Elliott said.
“So we have planned for that. We have another 3,100 hospital beds available that have been produced since March to be able to handle these extra volumes of both COVID patients as well as patients that are recovering from surgeries.”
Other areas that are seeing a spike in COVID-19 patients in intensive care include the regions of Halton and York.
Warner said about 24 per cent of all intensive care patients in those regions are infected with COVID-19.
Both regions are currently in the red category of the province's reopening framework while Toronto and Peel Region have now entered the second week of a 28-day lockdown.
"I think it is unlikely that things will improve in the short-term," Warner said.
"I can foresee both regions moving to lockdown, granted public health has to look at other criteria such as case rates per 100,000, whether the public health system is over capacity, and the overall per cent positivity. But I think the situation will likely worsen in York and Halton Region over the next few weeks."
Warner said it could take upwards of six weeks before cases decline as a result of the lockdown measures.
"I'm not sure when things will get better. It could take two, four, six weeks to see case numbers come down... the challenge with public health measures is you never know how much worse it would have been had the measures not been implemented," he said.
"And that is the challenge that the public I think has in understanding whether these restrictions were actually necessary. I can say without the measures, the situation a week from now would undoubtedly be worse than it will be."
Under the lockdown, restaurants can only open for takeout and delivery and non-essential businesses are limited to delivery and curbside pickup. Gyms, movie theatres, hair salons, and casinos all remain closed.
Warner urged residents to stick to their regions and not go elsewhere for shopping or personal care services.
"If we don't listen to the public health experts, this lockdown, or whatever level of restrictions you are in in your particular region, will be longer, more people will die, and more people will suffer," he said. It's that simple."