Ontario to resume non-urgent surgeries and procedures as COVID-19 numbers decline

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WATCH ABOVE (May 2): Front-line workers say the battle to get COVID-19 under control remains a constant struggle as ICU admissions continue day after day. Katherine Ward speaks with medical experts from across southern Ontario to see how hospitals are dealing with increased demands – May 2, 2021

The Ontario health care system can resume non-urgent and non-emergent surgeries and procedures effective Wednesday due to decreasing COVID-19 case and hospital numbers, the province’s chief medical officer of health says.

Dr. David Williams issued the stoppage on April 20 due to increasing COVID case counts, hospitalizations and ICU admissions as the province grappled with the third wave of the virus.

Read more: COVID-19: Ontario hospitals ramp down elective surgeries to increase ICU capacity

“This was done in an effort to ensure that our health resources could be focused where they were most urgently needed,” Williams said in a release Wednesday. “Such measures are never taken lightly, and we recognize the impact they have had on patients waiting for their scheduled surgeries and procedures, and on health care providers across the province.”

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On Wednesday, Ontario reported 1,588 new coronavirus cases, marking the second day in a row cases fell below 2,000. The seven-day average has also been trending downwards sitting at 2,183, down for a week ago where it was 2,826.

Read more: Ontario reports 1,588 new COVID-19 cases, 2nd day in a row cases are below 2,000

As of Wednesday, there are 1,401 people hospitalized with COVID-19, with 735 patients in intensive care and 539 patients in the ICU on a ventilator.

Williams said that while numbers in the health-care system still remain relatively high, the province has seen more capacity become available among “community and hospital partners.”

“It is therefore important to make use of this available capacity to limit the long-term impacts on patients awaiting non-urgent care.”

However, a spokeswoman for Health Minister Christine Elliott said the resumption of non-urgent procedures won’t be uniform across the province since it’s dependent on a hospital’s capacity.

Read more: COVID-19: Ontario’s fiscal watchdog says surgical backlog will take more than 3.5 years to clear

On May 10, Ontario’s fiscal watchdog said surgical backlog in the province would take more than three and a half years to clear.

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The Financial Accountability Office (FAO) projected the backlog of cancelled surgeries will reach 419,200 procedures by the end of September.

The office also estimated it would cost the province $1.3 billion to clear the backlog. Ontario announced $610 million in its latest budget to go towards the issue.

With files from Gabby Rodrigues and The Canadian Press

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