Published Saturday, December 12, 2020 5:20PM EST
Last Updated Sunday, December 13, 2020 6:10AM EST
Dr. Michael Warner, the medical director of critical care at Michael Garron Hospital, told CP24 on Saturday afternoon that hospitals are beginning to feel the impact of the pandemic’s second wave and many may be “underwater.”
“In the province, Critical Care Services Ontario is reporting 251 COVID-19 ICU patients. At our peak in wave one, we were at 283, and based on the modeling presented on Dec. 10, we were supposed to breach 250 about eight days from now,” he said.
Provincial health officials released new modelling data Thursday indicating there will be more than 200 COVID-19 patients in Ontario ICUs for at least the next month, and that those numbers may increase to 250 or 350 in the worst-case scenarios.
When there is more than 150 COVID-19 patients in the ICU, the province has said that other care can be impacted. When that number exceeds 350 people, non-COVID-19 care becomes “impossible” to handle.
“If we reach 300 ICU cases by Christmas, which I think we will, that's going to cause cancellation of procedures, surgeries etc. If would reach 400 or 500, I don't even want to imagine what that will look like,” Warner said.
Warner added that he does not think the lockdown orders issued to Toronto, Peel Region, York Region and Windsor came soon enough, nor does he believe the lockdowns should end with those four regions.
Toronto and Peel Region have been under a lockdown order since Nov. 20, but according to the modelling released this week, the efforts are not making much of a difference in terms of case counts or the death toll related to COVID-19.
Under lockdown, non-essential businesses were closed and in-person dining at restaurants was prohibited. Residents have been urged not to gather with anyone outside of their household.
On Friday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced that York Region and Windor-Essex would be joining the list of regions in lockdown—causing a last-minute rush at some malls and stores.
At Vaughan Mills outlet mall, for example, a line of people could be seen Saturday wrapping around the parking lot, with some residents waiting about two hours in order to get some Christmas shopping done before the area shut down.
“You shouldn't be hitting the malls before there's lockdown. There's a reason why the lockdown is coming,” he said.
“That's because the hospitals in York Region, in Peel, in areas of Toronto, in Hamilton, you know, in other areas of the GTA are really feeling the pinch. We're not going to be able to provide all the services people need for non-COVID-related care if people continue to interact and that's going to affect you, your neighbour or someone you don't even know.”
“People really need to smarten up and stop thinking about what they want to do and think about how their actions affect other people.”
According to Warner, there has been significant ICU admission in the regions of Halton, Hamilton, Kitchener and Waterloo, in addition to York, Windsor, Peel and Toronto.
“There are regions that are still in red that need to be locked down,” he said, adding that the “surgical approach” would have been to put these regions in lockdown two months earlier.
“Because we let things go so long that lockdown is all we have left and that's what will be required if hospitals continue to be underwater.”
Doctor fears lockdown is too late
An emergency room doctor in York Region said he is frustrated and worried about the strain that hospitals are currently under as COVID-19 patients continue to increase.
"There are people being held in the (emergency room) that should be in ICU and better serve there," Dr. Steve Flindall told CP24 on Saturday.
He noted that patients experiencing acute symptoms like shortness of breath and chest pain keep arriving and are starting to back up their emergency department.
On Friday, the doctor posted on Twitter that he fears the lockdown that will come into effect in York Region on Monday may be too late.
Flindall said stronger measures should have been imposed in York Region two weeks ago when Toronto and Peel entered the lockdown category.
"The problem is, and many physicians have said this before, everything looks OK until it's not," he said.
"The exponential growth that you see with communicable diseases, it comes up on you fast. And once you realize you're in trouble, you're already behind the eight ball."
Flindall said the pandemic is taking a toll on health-care workers.
"It hasn't been a major tidal wave where we've drowned in one swoop. But everybody's starting to feel fatigued," he said.
"Any help we can get, we appreciate. We're just asking people to adhere to the public health guidelines."
Flindall said he would like to see big-box stores close when York Region moves to the lockdown level.
"I don't think big-box stores should be allowed to operate as they are right now. We really have to keep crowding down to a minimum," he said.
The doctor noted that the crowds at some malls and stores in the region on Saturday are dangerous.
"Any group gathering is risky right now. Once you get high numbers of the viral load in the community, you have a much, much greater chance of coming across somebody with a virus," Flindall said.
"Once we're at this stage, you really have to watch your gatherings."