During a media update Friday afternoon, Ontario health officials outlined the province’s current state of health care facilities and equipment.
There has been a movement to build up the province’s supply of ventilators, which are mechanical health devices that deliver oxygen to those who have problems breathing. A lack of those devices has been a major issue in treating patients with COVID-19 in countries such as Italy.
Officials said up to 3,250 ventilators, which are ready to be deployed, come from a number of sources such as those used day-to-day in hospitals, anesthesia machines that double as ventilators, machines stockpiled during the SARS and H1N1 outbreaks and there’s a request for an allotment out of the federal government’s national emergency stockpile.
The government has an existing order of 340 new ventilators and another 460 machines are being ordered. Forty of those new devices have arrived.
Dr. Kevin Smith, the president and CEO of the University Health Network in Toronto, said at this point, the biggest challenge comes down to medical technology and the willingness of residents to practice things like physical and social distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“Right now our greatest concern is ensuring we have adequate ventilators,” Smith said.
“It’s really in the hands of Canadians to make the decision about whether or not this disease goes on an exponential rate or on a flattened curve where we can truly meet the needs of each patient.
“If we flatten that curve with the numbers we talked about, we should have the adequate physical capacity.”
The government said after hospitals began ramping down non-urgent and elective surgeries on March 15, it has freed up spaces in hospitals. Officials said, as of Wednesday, the overall hospital capacity hovered at around 76.6 per cent, which is about 20 per cent lower than this time last year.
As for critical care spaces, there is currently a 68 per cent occupancy of critical care spaces with approximately 400 beds available for care. In all, there are 22,053 adult critical care beds — and 1,321 of those beds have access to ventilation equipment.
When it comes to moving less serious health patients who can have an alternative level of care, staff said they are looking at ways to move people to non-hospital facilities, nursing and retirement homes, hotels, or at the patient’s home through homecare.
There is also planning in case field hospitals need to be set up, such as heated garages. However, officials said based on the current capacity those types of facilities aren’t needed yet.
As of Friday afternoon, the Ontario government said there were 967 active cases of COVID-19 in the province. Of those active cases, 43 patients are in ICU beds across the province. In total, 18 Ontario residents have died and eight cases have been deemed resolved.