TORONTO — Ontario's ministry of long-term care is making moves it says could ease strain on a hospital system stretched to the limit by mounting COVID-19 cases.
The ministry says it's trying to free up scarce beds with measures aimed at hospital patients awaiting placement in a long-term care facility.
It says the province will wave fees for patients who agree to take a spot in a home that may not be their first choice until they're placed in the facility they want.
It says accepting an alternate placement won't affect a patient's standing on the waiting list at the home they prefer.
The ministry says it's also relaxing staffing rules, saying long-term care staff who are fully vaccinated are no longer limited to working in just one facility.
The Ontario Hospital Association had been calling for similar measures for weeks as hospitalization rates and admissions to intensive care units reach unprecedented levels across much of the province.
On Saturday, for instance, the number of patiente in provincial intensive care units climbed to 833, with 600 on a ventilator.
Hospitali admissions dipped slightly by 10, but still stood at 2,277.
The province reported 4,094 new COVID-19 infections on Saturday and 24 virus-related deaths.
Meanwhile, Ontario's COVID-19 science advisory table encouraged is encouraging a shift in the province's vaccine strategy, saying allocating shots based on transmission rate rather than age group would considerably reduce COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths.
The group of scientific experts and health system leaders issued a report saying focusing on hot spot neighbourhoods where COVID-19 infection rates are highest and residents are less likely to be able to work from home would reduce hospitalizations by 14 per cent and deaths by 11 per cent.
The table said the current approach, which has largely focused on vaccinating people based on age, health condition or status as a resident of a congregate care setting, has left some of those most at risk least likely to receive a shot.
The table's analysis showed residents of neighbourhoods with the lowest risk of COVID-19 are 1.5 times more likely to have received at least one shot.
To quell the virus, the table said the province could move to a hot spot-accelerated vaccination strategy, where half of Ontario's shots are allocated to 74 neighbourhoods with the highest COVID-19 incidence levels.
It says the remaining half could be equally distributed across the province, but noted there could be additional benefits if Ontario further prioritized workers in warehouses, factories and other facilities with large numbers of outbreaks.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 24, 2021.
The Canadian Press