A Toronto hospital network is temporarily putting non-essential outpatient procedures on hold as COVID-19 cases spike in Ontario.
Tim Rutledge, the president and CEO of Unity Health Toronto, which includes St. Joseph’s Health Centre and St. Michael’s Hospital, announced the decision in a statement Monday.
“Starting December 20, we’ve made the difficult decision to put all non-essential ambulatory care and surgical procedures temporarily on hold with the exception of urgent and emergent cases,” the statement said.
“We’ve also moved all non-essential ambulatory visits from in person in our clinic spaces to virtual where possible.”
Rutledge said it has become “very clear that we are facing another significant surge of COVID-19 in Toronto and across Ontario.”
He said Omicron presents challenges and uncertainties, and noted that the variant is rapidly transmitting between people.
Rutledge said patients who are impacted will be contacted. He added that surgeries are being prioritized so that patients with urgent conditions, or whose prognosis would be impacted by a delayed procedure, receive care.
“We are taking steps at Unity Health Toronto to protect your healthcare services so we can make sure we are able to provide care to those most in need during this wave of the pandemic,” Rutledge said.
“We know that any change we make to our services is distressing and challenging for our staff, patients and loved ones, and we will ramp up as soon as it’s safe to do so. Right now we need to focus all of our efforts, our people and resources on caring for our patients and assuring that we have the capacity to meet the demands of the pandemic.”
COVID-19 cases have been surging in Ontario in recent weeks. The number of people hospitalized with the virus has remained relatively stable, though has been on a slow rise.
Last Thursday, prior to the Ontario government announcing additional measures in a bid to slow the spread of COVID-19, the province’s science advisory table warned that without “prompt intervention, ICU occupancy could reach unsustainable levels in early January.”
Rutledge called for everyone who is eligible to get their COVID-19 vaccine boosters as soon as possible.
“The COVID-19 vaccination is the single best protection we all have against this deadly virus,” he said.
— with files from Jessica Patton
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