Ontario Hospitals Call for Stronger Public Health Measures Amid Surge of New COVID-19 Cases

Ontario Hospitals Call for Stronger Public Health Measures Amid Surge of New COVID-19 Cases
Ontario Premier Doug Ford answers media questions at Queen's Park during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Sept. 28, 2020. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)
Isaac Teo

Ontario hospitals are calling on the provincial government to step up public health measures and return to Stage 2 for the hardest virus-hit areas to curb the spread of COVID-19 and prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed.

The Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) wants immediate stricter public health measures due to a new spike in COVID-19 infections. According to Public Health Ontario, the province now has 700 new cases.

With the sharp surge in infection cases, the OHA said Ontario hospitals are “gravely concerned” that they will be unable to cope, and is thus urging the government to “intensify” public health measures.

“Without public health measures in place to limit opportunities for disease transmission, Ontario will soon see higher numbers of hospitalizations, admissions to intensive care units (ICUs), and more deaths,” Anthony Dale, OHA’s President and CEO, said in a press statement on Monday.

“A return to Stage 2, with restrictions on indoor dining and bars, places of worship, weddings, gyms, movie theatres, and other non-essential businesses, is needed now to keep schools open and prevent a further acceleration of infections,” Dale said, adding that the areas where Stage 2 should be reinstated include Toronto, all GTA regions, and Ottawa.

Dale noted that emerging evidence shows “indoor settings like bars and restaurants have become significant drivers of rising COVID-19,” and so it will be confusing to the public if the province continues to keep these businesses open while restricting private gatherings.

On Sept. 28, on the advice of health officials, Premier Doug Ford announced that “Ontario is now in the second wave of COVID-19,” adding that the second wave will be “worse than the first wave we encountered earlier this year."

“Please, follow the health guidance. Please download the COVID-19 alert app. Please get your flu shot this year. It is absolutely critical,” Ford said.

To tackle the rising cases, Ford said he will strengthen the province’s health-care system.

“It means adding more resources, adding more testing capacity and most importantly, adding more boots on the ground.”

The Ford government announced Monday that it will invest $52.5 million to “recruit, retain and support over 3,700 more frontline health care workers and caregivers” to ensure the province's health-care system can handle with the demand.

In addition, the funding will hire up to 600 new nurses who specialize in long-term care home and acute-care settings, and another 800 in provincial hospitals.

The province will also offer a $5,000 incentive to 2,000 new personal support worker graduates if they can commit for the next six months in long-term care homes and in the home and community care sectors.

Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams said in his updates that the 700 new cases is a “wake-up call for us.”

However, he explained that of the 700 cases, some were reported late due to a backlog in laboratory testing. This means the figures reported Monday could have been lower given that they could have been reported over the weekend. He cautioned, nevertheless, that it “not to be taken lightly.”