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Canadian military’s COVID-19 medical task force assuming duties at Toronto’s Sunnybrook hospital

Click to play video: 'Military, Red Cross being sent to Ontario’s hospitals after provincial request for help' Military, Red Cross being sent to Ontario’s hospitals after provincial request for help
WATCH ABOVE: The federal government says they will be deploying the Canadian Armed Forces and the Canadian Red Cross medical personnel to Ontario after a recent request for assistance. – Apr 26, 2021

Just days after dozens of Canadian Armed Forces medical and logistical personnel were given their orders to assist Ontario’s strained hospital system as health-care workers tend to critically ill COVID-19 patients, most of those members are preparing to assume care responsibilities at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre as of Friday.

Dubbed Task Force Presidio, a military spokesperson for Joint Task Force Central confirmed to Global News around 50 military members (consisting of critical care nurses, two multi-purpose medical assistance teams as well as command and support personnel) are a part of the initial deployment and will be in place until at least May 31.

“With (Ontario) Ministry of Health concurrence, Sunnybrook was selected as the initial location of employment for the task force based on the urgent staffing requirements for Sunnybrook’s [mobile health unit (MHU)] and [intensive care unit (ICU)],” Lt(N). Alicia Morris said in a statement Thursday afternoon.
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Read more: Report reveals Ontario’s hospitals most problematic compared to rest of Canada

She said after two days of orientation and training at the MHU, a temporary, multi-pod network of tents with sophisticated medical equipment erected in one of the parking lots to create space for more critical patients inside the hospital.

At the initial phase of the MHU, 84 hospital patients will be able to be cared for but it can scale up to 100 beds. As of Friday, there will be eight patients in the temporary unit.

A spokesperson for Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre told Global News while some discussions are still underway in terms of exact responsibilities, 34 personnel will support staff assigned to the MHU, which will care for recovering or nearly recovered COVID-19 patients that have been stabilized.

The spokesperson also said nine critical care nurses will be working in the hospital’s ICU to support civilian staff.

Read more: Ornge air ambulance working around the clock to transfer critical COVID-19 patients across Ontario

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Canadian Red Cross said the organization is in the process of identified nurses with ICU experience who can augment or relieve existing staff in Toronto-area hospitals. The locations of where those nurses would be deployed is still being discussed.

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Earlier in the week, a team of nine nurses and doctors from Newfoundland arrived in Toronto to help staff at the University Health Network.

The Ontario government recently made requests of other provinces and the federal government for assistance.

“We have been working with the federal government to identify health human resources located across various federal agencies who might be suitable for deployment to assist with the critical care surge 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,” Stephen Warner, a spokesperson for Ontario Solicitor General Sylvia Jones, told Global News in a statement on Monday.

Read more: Ontario COVID-19 modelling shows high-level cresting of cases, but ICUs and workplaces major issues

“In addition to health human resources, we are requesting logistical and operational support as we seek to augment our response to COVID-19. We thank the federal government for their continued support as we battle this third wave driven by COVID-19 variants.”

The deployment of the Canadian Armed Forces to Ontario isn’t the first time personnel have been asked to respond to the pandemic. In 2020, military members were sent to multiple long-term care facilities to provide help.

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Recent weeks have seen all-time daily case records shattered across the province with the peak high of less than 5,000 cases reported in a 24-hour period.

Read more: Ontario reports 3,871 new COVID-19 cases, 41 deaths

Dr. Adelsteinn Brown, the co-chair of Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, released the latest provincial modelling on Thursday. He outlined how Ontario’s hospitals admitted an all-time number of patients in mid-April.

At the peak of the third wave, almost 2,400 people were hospitalized. However, he said ICU admissions continue to escalate. Currently, there are a record-high number of people (just shy of 900) in critical care beds.

On Thursday, there were almost 3,900 new cases were reported.

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