Ontario transfers dozens more COVID-19 patients as GTA ICUs buckle under 3rd wave

·3 min read
Paramedics with Ornge ambulance service load a patient outside Scarborough General Hospital on April 8, 2021. (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)
Paramedics with Ornge ambulance service load a patient outside Scarborough General Hospital on April 8, 2021. (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)

Ontario hospitals have transferred another 26 COVD-19 patients from intensive care units struggling to cope with the surging third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The majority of the latest transfers saw patients displaced from several Greater Toronto Area hospitals, which account for the bulk of Ontario's new COVID-19 cases.

While Ontario's seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases has now declined for three consecutive days, the number of patients in hospitals and intensive care units continues to hit numbers not seen before in the pandemic.

As of Friday, there were 818 people with COVID-related illness being treated in ICUs, with 593 of those requiring a ventilator to breathe.

Hospitals sending out patients include:

  • Nine patients transferred from Scarborough Health Network.

  • Eight patients transferred from William Osler Health System.

  • Four patients transferred from Trillium Health Partners.

  • Two patients transferred from Toronto General Hospital.

  • One patient transferred from each of Humber River Hospital, Kingston Health Sciences Centre and London Health Sciences.

Hospitals in Ottawa, Hamilton, Kitchener, London, Windsor, Stratford, Owen Sound, Belleville, Brockville, St. Catharines and Oakville were among those taking on new patients on Friday.

The figures, provided by a hospital official with access to capacity reports, also shows a patient transferred from William Osler Health Centre in Brampton to Sick Kids in Toronto, which earlier this month announced it would begin accepting adult COVID-19 patients.

Over the past seven days, a spokesperson for William Osler says it has transferred 37 COVID-19 ICU patients to other hospitals. Across Brampton Civic Hospital and Etobicoke General Hospital, the network says it has 189 total COVID-19 patients of which 18 are in ICUs.

"To manage ICU capacity and ensure we have resources and space to care for patients when they need it most, we continue to transfer appropriate COVID-19 positive critical care patients as directed by the Critical Care IMS Command Table, to other hospitals that are not as challenged with capacity," William Osler's public relations director Emma Murphy said.

Sick Kids previously said it would only accept adult patients from hospitals that exhausted their surge capacity and could not arrange transfers to other neighbouring hospitals.

Ornge, which provides air and land transport for critically ill patients, said it performed 80 transfers on Thursday, April 22 to open additional ICU capacity around the GTA. That's the highest number of transfers yet, the ambulance service said.

Sister of twice-transferred patient frustrated with process

"I feel for them because I know what it's been like for me," said Kim Levinsky, whose sister Sherry Varela was among the 80 people transferred on Thursday.

Varela, 60, was first admitted to the Trillium Health Partners Mississauga Hospital on April 3, where she tested positive for a coronavirus variant of concern. She has been intubated and sedated while being treated for severe illness related to the virus.

Varela was initially transferred to the London Victoria Hospital on April 9, before being put on the road once again this week to a hospital in Sarnia.

"You're kind of up in the air because they don't know and you don't know," Levinsky said of hospital staff dealing with a surge in patients.

More than 2,000 patients have been transferred since mid-November, when the Ontario government activated the GTA Hospital Incident Management System, according to Ontario Health.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said on Tuesday that patient transfers maximize use of the hospital system, using the entire health-care system as one resource.

"We are still building, we are still creating capacity," she said.