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Ontario pauses non-urgent surgeries, as hospitals are overwhelmed by COVID

Doctors wearing blue scrubs in an operating room
Kingston General Hospital
Council of Academic Hospitals of Ontario

Hospitals in Ontario are struggling with soaring numbers of COVID-19 as the fourth wave of the pandemic spreads at record speeds. At least two hospitals have issued a code orange and, as of Wednesday, all hospitals have been instructed to put a hold on non-urgent surgeries and procedures.

A code orange is often used when capacity outpaces demand to ensure internal and external hospital resources are deployed efficiently. The code orange was declared at a hospital in Toronto’s west end, as well as one in Brampton northwest of the city.

Dr. Dale Kalina, an infectious disease physician, said with COVID-19 cases soaring, the health care system is under pressure.

"Don’t have enough nurses, we don’t have enough physicians. We don’t have enough health care providers and be able to run all of these ICU beds anymore," Kalina said. "While we do have some reserves right now, anything above that is an added strain on our system.”

Nurses in Ontario, as well as across the country, are being pushed to the brink because of COVID-19. Many are burnt out or have COVID-19 symptoms.

Birgit Umaigba, an ICU nurse and clinical course director at Centennial College, said nurses are broken and exhausted because of the pressure.

‘These people show up for one shift and they’re treated so poorly because of he nursing shortage, and they don’t show up for the next shift," she said. "I know so many people right now, good nurses, and unfortunately so many are looking for an escape route."

Umaigba said sometimes there are patients who go into cardiac arrest, but there aren’t enough nurses to adequately respond to the situation.

Ontario reported more than 11,000 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday and an increase in hospitalizations.