Ontario announced 4,227 new COVID-19 cases Friday, the highest single-day total the province has experienced, as physicians were warned that the high burden of the virus on the health-care system means they may have to make “incredibly difficult decisions” about their patients’ care in the days ahead.
The province reported 4,249 on Jan. 8 but said at the time 450 of those cases were confirmed in days prior and could be attributed to a data catch-up.
The seven-day average of new cases as of Friday is 3,265, shy of the peak of 3,555 reached in mid-January.
As a result of the worsening epidemic, the province has directed hospitals to ramp down all elective surgeries as of Monday in order to redeploy staff and resources to COVID-19 patients.
In a memo, Ontario Health President and CEO Matthew Anderson attributed the decision to “increasing case counts and widespread community transmission across many parts of the province [and] mounting and extreme pressure on our critical care capacity.”
Children’s hospitals and those in the north are excluded but were warned to prepare to ramp down as well.
Anderson also said Ontario Health could ask that hospitals send staff to other parts of the system. “We will be asking you to identify available staff who might be redeployed to sites requiring support and for receiving sites to help integrate these staff members into their teams,” he wrote.
He also acknowledged the toll the decision will take on patients, saying “we understand that deferring scheduled care will have an impact on patients and their families and caregivers.”
The memo was sent a day after the province instituted a four-week stay-at-home order. But the decision to take that step was only made after weeks of mounting warnings about ICU capacity from the province’s science advisors, intensive care doctors and groups including the Ontario Hospital Association.
“This situation is extraordinarily serious and we ask for patience and support from the people of Ontario as hospitals grapple with this historic crisis. Ensuring equitable access to critical care services is our paramount priority,” said CEO Anthony Dale Friday, of ramping down surgeries.