On May 7, 2020, Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott announced the Ontario government’s framework to assist hospitals in planning to resume scheduled surgeries and procedures.
Following today’s announcement, Premier Ford provided clarity to cottage owners regarding travel to cottage country during COVID-19, particularly over the May long weekend.
Earlier today, the Ontario government also announced a $3.5 million investment to implement protective measures for forestry workers during the upcoming tree planting season.
Plan to Resume Scheduled Surgeries and Procedures
This afternoon, Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott, announced the Ontario government’s framework to assist hospitals in assessing their readiness and planning for the resumption of scheduled surgeries and procedures.
The framework, A Measured Approach to Planning for Surgeries and Procedures During the COVID-19 Pandemic, includes criteria that must be met before hospitals can resume scheduled surgeries. Criteria for each hospital and region include:
- A stable number of COVID-19 cases;
- A stable supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) and medications;
- An adequate capacity of inpatient and intensive care unit (ICU) beds;
- An adequate capacity of health human resources, and;
- The availability of post-acute care outside the hospital that would be required to support patients after discharge.
According to Premier Ford and Minister Elliott, the flexibility of the framework will enable every hospital in the province to develop a plan according to its own unique circumstances. As a result, timelines for resuming surgeries and other procedures are likely to vary from hospital to hospital. Timelines are also likely to vary across different regions of the province, depending on approval by regional oversight tables.
As a first step, hospitals will be asked to assess whether there is adequate staffing, equipment and other resources to resume scheduled care. This assessment will be conducted on a weekly basis.
In addition to providing criteria to inform timelines for resuming scheduled care, today’s framework also outlines criteria for prioritizing surgeries. The following criteria will be used to prioritize surgeries, once they are permitted to resume:
- A patient’s condition;
- The type of procedure a patient requires and any options for non-operative treatment;
- The associated risks of delaying a patient’s surgery, and;
- The resources required in terms of PPE, medications, ICU beds, and other care requirements.
In response to questions about whether certain hospitals would be designated “COVID-19-free” in order to safely perform surgeries, Minister Elliott reiterated that this is a possibility, although the government first needs a better understanding of the plans and feasibility assessments of individual hospitals.
Minister Elliott also emphasized that while the process has started and the government hopes to move as quickly as possible in resuming scheduled care, it will likely be several weeks before surgeries can resume.
Clarification Re: Travel to Cottage Country
Following today’s announcement, Premier Ford provided clarity to cottage owners regarding travel to cottage country during COVID-19, particularly during the May long weekend.
After speaking yesterday with cottage country mayors, Premier Ford emphasized that the upcoming May long weekend will not be “typical.” He encouraged seasonal residents of cottage country to only travel to cottage country in order to check on seasonal properties, and to practice physical distancing and bring their own supplies if this travel is necessary. Otherwise, would-be visitors to cottage country are asked to continue to avoid non-essential travel by staying away at this time.
Investment to Protect Forestry Workers
Earlier today, the Ontario government also announced a $3.5 million investment to implement protective measures for forestry workers during this year’s tree planting season.
The $3.5 million will be used for larger camp facilities and additional kitchens to provide more space for workers, as well as extra PPE, plastic partitions for transporting workers, and more wash stations.