Hospital association in Ontario renews calls for vax as COVID admissions rise

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Ontario's hospital association warned Wednesday that broader vaccination is needed to minimize the impact of the pandemic's fourth wave as admissions to its facilities due to the virus rise.

Anthony Dale, president and CEO of the Ontario Hospital Association, said increasing the vaccination rate will help limit the burden on hospitals and reduce any further disruption to non-COVID services.

"People who are unvaccinated are placing themselves and others at direct risk. This is especially true for school children under the age of 12 who cannot yet be vaccinated," he said in a statement.

"Given this risk, Ontario's children’s hospitals are working with provincial authorities to ensure ongoing access to pediatric critical care services through the fall and winter. This planning complements their broader efforts to strengthen health services and supports for children during the pandemic."

More than 90 per cent of COVID-19 patients in intensive care and more than 80 per cent of those hospitalized but not in an ICU are not fully vaccinated with two doses, Dale noted.

As well, uptake of vaccinations has "slowed significantly" recently as case counts increase, he said.

The province said slightly more than 82 per cent of Ontarians aged 12 and older have received one dose of a vaccine, and just over 75 per cent have had two shots.

Daily cases have been trending upward – Ontario reported 660 new infections on Wednesday, with 525 of those involving people who are not fully vaccinated or whose vaccination status is unknown.

The province said 283 people are in hospital due to COVID-19 – 253 of whom are not fully inoculated or with an unknown vaccination status. It said 161 people are in intensive care because of the virus, seven of them fully vaccinated.

Earlier in the pandemic, the province indicated that having more than 150 COVID-19 patients in intensive care could necessitate cutting back on surgeries.

On Tuesday, Ontario's top doctor, Dr. Kieran Moore, said the province currently has the capacity to care for those in intensive care, but will closely monitor what he considers a "key marker" of the pandemic situation.

Thousands of surgeries were postponed over the course of the pandemic, leaving the health-care sector with a significant backlog.

Data published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal last fall suggested more than 148,000 procedures were postponed in the first wave of the pandemic alone, creating a backlog researchers said would take at least a year and a half to clear.

Last month, the province announced funding it said would allow hospitals to operate at 110 to 115 per cent capacity in an effort to tackle the backlog.

The government said the $324 million allocated would allow hospitals to extend operating hours to perform up to 67,000 more procedures per year and provide 135,000 more hours of CT and and MRI imaging combined.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 25, 2021.

Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press

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