Ontario adjusts emergency orders that were put in place at height of province's third wave

The Ontario government has tweaked two emergency orders that were put in place to increase healthcare capacity during the height of the province’s third wave while simultaneously permitting hospitals to conduct more elective surgeries and procedures.

In a memo sent to hospitals on Wednesday, Deputy Minister of Health Helen Angus announced that an April 28 amendment to an emergency order that permitted hospitals to move chronically ill hospital patients into long-term care homes and retirement homes without their consent is “no longer necessary” due to “some of the improvements to health system conditions that have been observed in recent days.”

The revoking of the amendment comes with the province never actually having had to transfer a patient to a long-term care or retirement home without their consent.

The initial emergency order, which allowed for hospital patients to be transferred to other hospitals without their consent, remains in place and Angus said in her memo that it will continue until at least June 16 due to the “persistently high ICU occupancy rates and the extreme operational pressures that many hospitals continue to face.”

Meanwhile, the province is also revoking another amendment to an existing emergency order which authorized Local Health Integration Networks and Ontario Health to redeploy their staff to long-term care homes and retirement homes.

Angus said that the initial emergency order allowing for the transfer of staff to hospitals remains in place.

The changes come as the province continues to see a decline in hospitalizations and ICU occupancy.

The Ministry of Health says that there are currently 729 patients with COVID-19 in Ontario hospitals, down from 1,925 at this time last month (May 3).

The number of patients in intensive care with COVID-19 has also been slowly declining since peaking at 900 last month and now stands at 546.

In light of the improving conditions, the province has also loosened its rules around elective surgeries and will now allow hospitals with adequate resources to conduct non-urgent procedures even when they require inpatient care.

The ministry had previously revoked a ban on non-urgent procedures back on May 19 but only in cases where they did not require overnight care.

Officials have estimated that Ontario surgical backlog now stands at more than 250,000 procedures due to the rationing of care during the COVID-19 pandemic.