As hospitals have been dealing with surging numbers of coronavirus patients, a Scarborough Health Network (SHN) doctor says the situation is causing such a strain that some need to be flown to Kingston.
“Scarborough ICUs continue to be over capacity despite many patients transferred to other parts of Ontario for weeks. Much worse than I’ve seen before in my 10 years here, and we’ve increased ICU beds substantially but still can’t keep up,” Dr. Chris Lazongas, an intensivist with SHN and the program director of clinical pharmacology and toxicology with the University of Toronto, tweeted Friday morning.
Hours later, Lazongas posted another message on Twitter describing how staff are trying to make arrangements to transfer patients through air ambulance.
“Now sending ICU patients to Kingston (as soon as we can secure a helicopter). This (is) absolutely NOT our usual winter surge,” he wrote.
Lazongas said 10 ICU patients have been transferred to Oshawa, Ajax and Peterborough over the past two weeks, but noted the provincial government is advising which hospitals are accepting patients.
“What little capacity exists in the GTA is expected to be filled very soon, so sending our patients further,” he said in a tweet when asked about transferring patients to other GTA hospitals.
Dr. Martin Betts, the chief of critical care at SHN, said Scarborough has been “hit hard” by the virus and the 300th patient with COVID-19 has been admitted to the intensive care unit at the three-hospital network.
“Critical care capacity has been a challenge in Scarborough and throughout the GTA for the past several weeks,” he said in a written statement late Friday.
“We aim to manage patients with our internal capacity. However, from time to time we need to transfer patients to other hospitals to ensure all patients now and into the future continue to receive the high-quality care they deserve when presenting to our hospital with a critical illness.”
Doly Begum, the NDP MPP for Scarborough Southwest, said Scarboroug needs “an equitable solution” and has setup a town hall for Monday to discuss the situation.
For weeks medical professionals have been sounding the alarm on the surging cases.
As most recently as Jan. 7, Ontario Health CEO Matthew Anderson warned hospital CEOs to be prepared for out-of-region patients, share resources, and prioritize the treatment of patients.
For those facilities with available ICU bed capacity, hospital staff were directed to keep a third of that capacity for patients from overwhelmed hospitals who need to be transferred for care. The hospitals were directed to review the admission of patients to critical-care beds.
All hospitals were directed to be ready to accept any patient transfers as directed.
For areas with community transmission of COVID-19, in-person urgent or time-sensitive surgeries and treatments should continue “without delay” but there should be a plan to defer “non-time-sensitive care” if needed.
The Ontario government declared a state of emergency earlier in the week and a stay-at-home order took effect early Thursday.
According to COVID-19 data released by the Ontario government on Friday, there are currently 1,647 people hospitalized due to coronavirus — a decrease of 10 patients from the day before.
Of those patients, 387 people are in intensive care units (a day-over-day decrease of one patient) and 280 are on ventilators.
To date, 231,308 people have tested positive for coronavirus, 197,194 people were reported to have recovered from the virus and 5,289 of have died.
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