Tens of thousands of non-urgent procedures expected to be delayed in Ontario in coming weeks

Tens of thousands of procedures are expected to be delayed in Ontario in the coming weeks with the province instructing hospitals to pause “non-emergent and non-urgent” procedures and surgeries amid a surge in Omicron cases.

Provincial officials said the move, which will take effect Wednesday and will last until at least Jan. 26, was taken in a bid to preserve hospital capacity to prepare for an expected surge in hospitalizations caused by the Omicron COVID-19 variant.

“With the Omicron variant spiking in the way that it is and with the numbers of hospitalizations increasing rapidly, we will unfortunately need the bed spaces, as well as the staff, in order to be able to treat people with Omicron and whatever else comes in to the hospital that they need to be treated for,” Health Minister Christine Elliott said.

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“We are facing absenteeism of many health-care workers because they also have Omicron and we are trying to build up those reserves. We have introduced about 1,300 new people in the last few months to work in our hospitals, but we need both the spaces as well as the people in order to care for people with Omicron.”

Ontario chief medical officer of health Dr. Kieran Moore said the move to pause non-urgent and non-emergent procedures will open up 1,200 to 1,500 additional beds.

“We anticipate through the modelling that those 1,200 to 1,500 beds will be essential to be able to provide oxygen and care,” Moore said.

Ontario Health CEO Matt Anderson said in a typical week, there are around 8,000 to 10,000 surgeries or other procedures that would be impacted by the directive.

Officials said the decision to implement the directive was not taken lightly.

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“We recognize that although we are facing and doing our emergency surgeries and our urgent procedures, there is a cost here,” Anderson said.

“We’re absolutely sensitive to that. And as you’ve heard everyone speaking today, we want to get out of this as fast as possible, get our hospitals back up safely.”

The decision to pause non-urgent procedures was one of several new measures announced by the provincial government Monday in response to the spread of the Omicron variant.

The province also imposed new restrictions on businesses and announced that the return to in-person learning would be delayed until at least Jan. 17.

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