Ontario Significantly Expands Hospital Capacity to Prepare for Any COVID-19 Outbreak ScenarioPublished on April 16, 2020
Province adds more than 2,000 acute care and critical care beds and enacts pandemic staffing plans
TORONTO — Acting on the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health and other health care professionals, the Ontario government has significantly expanded hospital capacity in preparation for any COVID-19 outbreak scenario. The province has added 1,035 acute care beds and 1,492 critical care beds and taken steps to ensure hospitals have the staff available to care for a sudden surge in patients.
"Thanks to the hard work and relentless preparation of our hospital staff to build capacity in our hospitals, we are in a position to better allocate resources to sectors that are in critical need and respond to any potential surge in cases," said Premier Doug Ford. "When you combine these life-saving beds with the very best care delivered by our highly skilled hospital staff, our patients will definitely have a fighting chance against this deadly virus."
Hospitals across the province have taken steps to make more beds available for COVID-19 patients in every region of the province. As a result, Ontario has a total of 20,354 acute care beds with a potential for an additional 4,205 more acute care beds by April 30, 2020. Of Ontario's 3,504 critical care beds, 2,811 are now equipped with ventilators, up from 1,319 when the outbreak first started.
"As we've said from the outset of the COVID-19 outbreak, Ontario will be prepared to respond to any outbreak scenario, including having plans in place for the worst-case scenario," said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Heath. "Thanks to the innovative work by our health care leaders, we have been able to significantly expand acute and critical care capacity in Ontario's hospitals. While these are positive steps forward, it remains as important as ever that everyone continues to help stop the spread by staying home unless you are an essential service worker."
This bed capacity expansion has been organized in coordination with pandemic staffing plans to ensure each hospital has the physicians and staff needed, including in case of a major surge of cases. Measures include:
- Redeploying surgical nursing staff who can now work with medicine units;
- Sharing highly trained emergency department and intensive care unit nursing staffs across units;
- Sharing physician resources across hospitals in a given region;
- Recruiting family doctors to complete shifts within the hospital; and
- Recruiting retirees, including nursing and support services.
The province continues to focus on what resources will be needed to further enhance capacity quickly, if the need arises. Hospitals have identified additional opportunities to add new beds, including through the use of field hospitals, conference centres, school locations and more. Sites are ready to open based on the needs of the community.
- Ontario’s hospitals activated their pandemic plans to guide their decisions on how they created the enhanced capacity, including postponing some elective surgeries and reorganizing the discharging of alternate level of care patient to appropriate locations.
- Several other measures, including the launch of Ontario’s online self-assessment tool, opening assessment centres, increasing Telehealth capacity and the ability to consult with emergency department doctors virtually have also helped to reduce emergency room visits and hospital admissions.
- As of April 13, 2020, the average hospital occupancy rate was 69.1%% (64.1% for acute care only), a significant decrease from 96.2% (97.3% for acute beds) before COVID-19 measures. There are over 7,300 acute care beds unoccupied and over 2,000 critical care beds currently available across Ontario.
- Ontario recently placed an order with O-Two Medical Technologies to produce 10,000 ventilator units, along with the support of Ontario's world-class manufacturing sector.