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Ontario to Transfer Hospital Patients Without Consent as COVID-19 Cases Rise

Patients in Ontario hospitals struggling with unprecedented COVID-19 admissions can now be transferred to other hospitals without consent as Omicron’s push comes to a head, the Star has learned.

A directive signed by Chief Medical Officer Dr Kieran Moore on Friday sets the stage for the practice, which has not been seen since the third wave of the pandemic last spring, when intensive care units quickly filled up , resulting in the transfer of 2,000 critically ill patients to other cities and elsewhere. of their families.

“This sends a very strong message to the system that the functional integrity of the health care system is at risk,” said Dr. Chris Simpson, cardiologist at Kingston General Hospital and executive vice-president of Ontario Health, an organization provincial who oversees health care.

“Without a specific intervention, the health care system might not be there for someone who really needs it,” he added, citing situations such as strokes, heart attacks and trauma requiring immediate attention.

In a memo sent to hospitals on Friday afternoon and obtained by the Star, Moore said the directive was necessary to “maintain health care for as many patients as possible.”

“An increase in hospitalizations is expected throughout January,” the chief medical officer warned in the directive, noting that the problem is made worse by nurses, doctors and other staff sick with COVID-19 or isolated at home.

Moore’s decision came with the province reporting record hospitalizations for the eighth day in a row. Another 184 COVID-19 patients were admitted, bringing the total to 3,814 – well above last April’s record of around 2,300 patients.

Unlike the tense situation when intensive care units were pushed to breaking point last April, this time, inpatient ward patients – not just the sickest intensive care patients – could find themselves transferred to lesser hospitals. overcrowded and better able to care for them.

“Whether the biggest challenge is the wards or the intensive care unit will become clear in the next seven to 10 days,” said Dr. Peter Jüni, scientific director of the expert science table advising Moore and Premier Doug Ford.

“We might have a problem with both. ”

Simpson said intensive care capacity seemed “okay for now,” but warned that could change quickly. There were 527 COVID-19 patients in intensive care on Friday, an increase of 27 from the previous day, and 517 beds still available despite 1,337 other adults in intensive care for other illnesses and injuries.

“The crunch is going to be at the room level,” he predicted.

It’s hard to predict which hospitals are most likely to have to transfer patients elsewhere, Simpson added.

“It changes a lot from day to day who is the busiest. This time we have Omicron on the rise in every public health unit. There is no hospital that does not experience difficulties.

To date, the Trillium Hospital System in Mississauga, the William Osler System serving Brampton and North Etobicoke, and the Scarborough Health Network are “particularly affected,” Simpson said.

Dozens of patients have already been transferred between hospitals recently, such as from Chatham to London.

Although transfers can be made without consent, doctors typically consult with patients and their families, Simpson said.

Decisions on which patients to transfer will be made by physicians locally with guidance from the government’s healthcare incident management structure, which keeps an eye on the situation in hospitals across the province to maximize care capacity.

“Most reasonable people understand that this may have to be done for the good of the system,” Simpson said. “No one likes to be transferred.”

Transfers can be land or air, depending on circumstances and distance. Transferring ward patients is generally less complicated than transferring intensive care patients because their disease burden is lower.


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