Up to three military teams to be deployed in Ontario as hospitals struggle with influx of COVID patients
Published Monday, April 26, 2021 1:37PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, April 26, 2021 10:35PM EDT
The Canadian Forces will deploy up to three medical teams in Ontario to provide support to hospitals that are struggling to deal with an influx of COVID-19 patients.
Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair announced the support late on Monday afternoon in response to a formal request for help from Ontario’s Solicitor General Sylvia Jones.
According to a news release, the Canadian Forces will be deploying up to three “multi-purpose medical assistance teams” which will primarily be composed of nursing officers and medical technicians as well as additional Canadian Forces members “for general duty support.”
The release says that the teams will be “rotated in and out of the province rather than deployed simultaneously to ensure that CAF support is sustainable.
“We are always ready to help provinces and territories across Canada in their fight against COVID-19. This is a team Canada effort, and I'm grateful to the Canadian Armed Forces, Canadian Red Cross, and health professionals who have stepped up to help a neighbour in need,” Blair said in the release. “There has been outstanding collaboration between the responding organizations from all orders of government in response to this emergency, and I want to thank all those on the front lines who continue battle to keep Canadians safe.”
At this point it remains unclear how many troops will be deployed in Ontario.
The release says that in addition to the deployment of Canadian Forces personnel, the federal government will also “fund the redeployment of the Canadian Red Cross (CRC) to augment or relieve staff within medical care facilities.”
The confirmation of the support comes just hours after Jones revealed that the province has been working with the federal government to “identify health human resources” that could be deployed in Ontario.
“At the conclusion of that process, we have made a request for the assistance of those identified resources, many of whom reside, for example, within the Canadian Armed Forces and Canadian Red Cross organizations.” Jones’ said in a statement released early Monday afternoon. “In addition to the health human resources, we are requesting logistical and operational support as we seek to augment our response to COVID-19.”
On Monday, Ontario’s Ministry of Health said there are currently 877 COVID-19 patients in intensive care units across the province. The surge in ICU patients over the past six weeks has forced the province to halt all non-urgent and non-emergent surgeries as hospitals grapple with the influx of critical care patients. Many patients arriving at overwhelmed GTA hospitals have been transferred hundreds of kilometres away to other hospitals in the province that still have critical care capacity..
Speaking with reporters earlier in the day, Health Minister Christine Elliott confirmed that nine health-care workers from Newfoundland will be arriving in Ontario tomorrow, including Premier Andrew Furey’s wife, Dr. Allison Furey, a critical care doctor.
Details are coming together for the Newfoundland and Labrador contingent of health care professionals heading to Ontario to offer COVID-19 help. Talking to Premier @fordnation over the weekend, and expect to provide an update tomorrow - looks like they’ll be on their way Tuesday!— Andrew Furey (@FureyAndrew) April 25, 2021
“We're very grateful for the help that we were receiving from Newfoundland,” Elliott said during Question Period on Monday.
“There are other provinces that are offering PPE and we're looking at maybe receiving some more people from some other provinces too but we know that there are some provinces that are really struggling as well with COVID, so they need their own people.”
While the province has worked to expand the number of critical care beds, experts have cautioned that there is simply not enough trained staff to manage the patient load.
Last week, the federal government said it was mobilizing its own resources and would help coordinate sending health-care workers from other provinces to Ontario.
Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc told The Canadian Press that Ottawa opted to take a “leadership role” after Ontario began reaching out to other provinces for help.
"As we are building more beds, we have created more spaces, we have set back and delayed some of the emergency surgeries and procedures but we are still in need of some more health human resources," Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said when discussing the request for military assistance on Monday afternoon.
"This is another reach out as we are building our health human resources team, both to supplement what is going on as we are creating more intensive care beds but also to provide some respite for some of our frontline professionals who have been doing an amazing job over the last year."
On Monday, the first patient was transferred to Sunnybrook Hospital's COVID-19 field hospital, which was set up in an effort to alleviate hospital capacity pressures amid the pandemic.
The first patient was transferred to Sunnybrook’s Mobile Health Unit today.— Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre (@Sunnybrook) April 26, 2021
Ten beds within the Mobile Health Unit have been made available to help ease pressures in acute care hospitals.
➡️ Read more: https://t.co/0wNPKg8Vpt pic.twitter.com/UEaIYXUVtd
--With files from The Canadian Press