Low oxygen supplies due to COVID-19 force Michael Garron Hospital to transfer some patients

·2 min read
Ten patients were recently transferred from Michael Garron Hospital after its oxygen supply began to run low due to a high volume of COVID-19 patients.  (Michael Wilson/CBC - image credit)
Ten patients were recently transferred from Michael Garron Hospital after its oxygen supply began to run low due to a high volume of COVID-19 patients. (Michael Wilson/CBC - image credit)

Some patients at an east-end Toronto hospital were transferred elsewhere on Thursday as the facility deals with low oxygen supplies due to the third wave of the pandemic.

"Early this morning, Michael Garron Hospital identified potential risks to its oxygen supply due to the high volume of COVID-19 patients requiring oxygen at the hospital," wrote Mark Fam, Michael Garron's vice president of programs, in a short statement.

Fam says the hospital's intensive care unit, which can normally hold 17 patients, was over capacity. As of Thursday morning, 22 patients were in critical care.

In order to preserve supplies, 10 patients were transferred to St. Michael's and Sunnybrook hospitals, seven surgeries were cancelled and some ambulances were diverted, Fam told CBC News.

He said the cancelled surgeries have since been rebooked.

"The hospital also brought on additional temporary oxygen capacity, so that all patients requiring oxygen in the hospital have what they need, and no patients are at risk," he said.

According to Fam, the hospital's ICU is one of the city's smallest, but has one of the highest percentages of COVID-19 patients.

He said Michael Garron is working on bringing in additional oxygen supplies to ensure this doesn't happen again.

884 COVID-19 patients in province's ICUs

In modelling released on Thursday, Ontario's COVID-19 science advisory table predicted the province's intensive care units will remain under "incredible pressure" for some time to come.

As of Wednesday, there were 884 patients with COVID-related critical illnesses being treated in intensive care units. Of those, 620 required a ventilator to breathe.

Transferring patients from hard-hit regions to areas with fewer COVID patients has been a key release valve for the pressure building inside the health-care system, with dozens being moved a day — most from the GTA.

It's not clear if any transfers before Thursday's have been spurred by concerns about oxygen supplies.

The federal government also announced earlier this week it would send military medical teams to help at Ontario hospitals.