On April 16, 2020, Premier Doug Ford announced measures that have been taken to significantly expand Ontario’s hospital capacity over the last month, so that the province is prepared for any COVID-19 outbreak scenario.
Premier Ford was joined by Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott, and Minister of Long-Term Care Dr. Merrilee Fullerton.
Following this afternoon’s announcement, Premier Ford provided an update on the province’s testing capacity and took questions from media about other measures being taken to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Earlier today, the Ontario government issued a directive asking hospitals to temporarily stop transferring patients to long-term care and retirement homes.
Expanded Hospital Capacity
Today, Premier Doug Ford announced that the Ontario government has acted over the last month to significantly expand the capacity of hospitals in the province, assuming a worst-case scenario in order to ensure that Ontario hospitals are fully prepared. As a result of the preparation efforts taken by hospital staff, Premier Ford said that Ontario is able to better allocate resources to sectors in critical need, such as the long-term care (LTC) sector.
Ontario’s hospitals have worked quickly to ensure unprecedented capacity. The province has added over 2,000 acute and critical care beds to the hospital system and is on track to add another 4,200 acute care beds by the end of April. Currently, Ontario hospitals have well over 20,000 acute care beds and 3,500 critical care beds, 2,800 of which are equipped with ventilators. The province continues to work with automotive parts manufacturers to produce an additional 10,000 ventilators.
The province has also taken steps to ensure hospitals have the staff available for a sudden surge in patients by organizing the bed capacity expansion in coordination with pandemic staffing plans. Pandemic staffing measures include:
- Redeploying surgical nursing staff who can now work with medicine units;
- Sharing highly trained emergency department and intensive care unit nursing staffs across sectors;
- Sharing physician resources across hospitals in a given region;
- Recruiting family doctors to complete shifts within the hospital, and;
- Recruiting retirees, including nursing and support services.
Minister of Health Christine Elliott added that some Ontario hospitals have identified additional opportunities to quickly add new beds, including through renting hotel space, building tent and field hospitals, and employing the use of conference centres and schools. Sites are prepared to open, and the government is monitoring the development of hotspots where capacity may need to be built quickly.
Ontario Testing Capacity and Other Measures
Premier Ford confirmed that Ontario is now processing over 9,000 COVID-19 tests per day, exceeding the target of processing at least 8,000 daily tests by April 16.
In response to questions about updated modelling, Premier Ford confirmed that provincial health officials are gathering more data this week. He hopes to release new modelling next week.
Premier Ford also indicated that he will be discussing business relief measures with other premiers and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this afternoon. Premier Ford hopes to see federal support for both businesses and landlords.
When asked about Quebec’s request for military support in LTC, Premier Ford said that Ontario has not yet asked for this type of support, but that he will not hesitate to make this request if it is necessary.
On questions about U.S. President Trump’s desire to reopen the Canada-U.S. border, Premier Ford said that Prime Minister Trudeau should immediately reject this. Until COVID-19 is contained, Premier Ford says Canada’s borders should stay closed. He added that he did not want Americans in Ontario until the outbreak is contained.
Long-Term Care Measures
Earlier today, the Ontario government issued a directive asking hospitals to temporarily stop transferring patients to LTC and retirement homes. This directive builds on the COVID-19 Action Plan for Protecting Long-Term Care Homes that was released yesterday.
During today’s press conference, Minister of Long-Term Care Dr. Merrilee Fullerton announced that five Toronto hospitals have banded together to protect 38 LTC homes. Ontario has also ordered assessments for all 626 LTC homes and has issued new guidance on the use of masks.
In response to questions about the emergency order issued earlier this week, which prevents LTC workers from working in more than one facility at a time, Dr. Fullerton confirmed that the order comes into effect on April 22 in order to give LTC workers time to make decisions and LTC operators time to plan for adequate staffing.
Ontario auto insurance rebates
The Ontario government is enabling auto insurance companies to provide temporary insurance premium rebates to drivers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The province has amended a regulation under the Insurance Act to help ease the financial pressure on drivers. By amending this regulation insurance companies would be able to provide auto insurance premium rebates to consumers for up to 12 months after the declared emergency has ended.