Ontario expands hospital capacity, aiming for 4,200 acute care beds by month's end

Apr 16 2020, 10:46 am

The Ontario government has added 1,035 acute care beds and 1,492 critical care beds, with a goal to have more than 4,200 acute care beds by the end of April to expand hospital capacity tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.

“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,” Premier Doug Ford said on Thursday.

“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.”

According to the province, hospitals across Ontario 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.

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
  • Recruiting retirees, including nursing and support services

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.

Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, Minister of Long-Term Care Homes, said that in the last 24 hours, five hospitals in Toronto have gathered their resources to help 38 long-term care homes.

“This is the model we will be using to expand across the province,” Fullerton said.

She also said that hospitals will stop the transfer of patients to long-term care homes and that public health has reached out to all 626 facilities in the province to ensure resources are effectively deployed.

Ford added that the province’s promise to have 8,000 residents tested a day, by April 16, was exceeded with over 9,000 tests being done a day.

“We hit our first target and we will have 14,000 tests a day done by the end of this month,” Ford said.

Testing will also be expanded to priority groups like seniors, the shelter community, women’s shelters, women who are pregnant and cancer patients.

On Wednesday, Ford said he is mobilizing “every available resource” to stop the spread of COVID-19 in long-term care homes.

“We owe it to our most vulnerable,” Ford said during a press conference on Wednesday. “We’re throwing everything we’ve got at our long-term care homes and mobilizing every available resource.”

The province is launching a COVID-19 Action Plan for Long-Term Care Homes to improve screening, testing, and surveillance with a focus on homes that have coronavirus outbreaks (there are 104 outbreaks in facilities across the province to date).

On April 14, Ford announced a new emergency order mandating that healthcare employees at long-term care homes work at only one facility in order to prevent the spread of the virus.

As of April 16, there are 8,961 total cases in Ontario with 323 reported deaths.