Two hospitals in the Greater Toronto Area are moving to a “code orange” to address an increase in COVID-19 patients and staffing shortages, which is pushing capacity to its breaking point.
The William Osler Health System, which oversees operations at both Brampton Civic Hospital and Etobicoke General Hospital, said late Monday that the rare move was made “to ensure internal and external resources are deployed efficiently.”
“This move will enable us to continue to provide high-quality care to our patients, and we are grateful to our staff, physicians and volunteers who have moved swiftly to enact our Code Orange policy and procedures,” the health system’s president and CEO Dr. Naveed Mohammad said in a statement.
The hospital network said the temporary measure will see staff redeployed and some patients transferred to neighbouring hospitals to help free up capacity.
Ontario is facing its worst surge of COVID-19 cases yet, fuelled by the highly transmissible Omicron variant. The past two weeks has seen daily case counts explode beyond 10,000, with the vast majority in the Toronto and Peel regions.
As of Monday, 1,232 people were hospitalized with the disease, including 210 in intensive care, a level not seen since last May amid the province’s third wave.
The William Osler Health System noted its hospitals have been among the hardest-hit during the pandemic.
Earlier Monday, the province moved school classes online in a bid to stem the rising infections, and said non-urgent surgeries will be paused as of Wednesday.
Osler said it has already gone ahead with its own suspensions as of Monday, and will be contacting patients to reschedule their surgeries.
Indoor dining rooms, gyms and other indoor gathering spaces must close on Wednesday, while personal care services and retail stores will be limited to 50 per cent capacity and indoor social gatherings will be capped at five people.
While announcing the new measures, Premier Doug Ford pointed to projections from Ontario Health, which oversees the province’s health system, showing the total number of patients in provincial hospitals would exceed capacity within a few weeks as Omicron is expected to tear through the population.
Ford said recent numbers show that about one per cent of people infected with Omicron require hospitalization, but because the variant is so infectious, the sheer number of cases could still threaten to overwhelm the health system.
–With files from the Canadian Press