Province announces new surge capacity hospital beds for Kingston

Ontario Health Minister and Deputy Premier Christine Elliott speaking on Monday, Jan. 18, 2021.

Update: After publication, the Premier’s office sent a written statement in contradiction Monday’s annoucement. See update below

The Ontario government has announced that Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC) will be among a handful of provincial healthcare facilities to receive new surge capacity beds in the coming weeks.

As part of a response to the second wave of COVID-19 currently afflicting the province, Ontario Deputy Premier and Health Minister Christine Elliott announced Monday, Jan. 18, 2021 that 500 new beds will come online shortly in Ontario, in Toronto, Windosr, Durham, Kingston, Ottawa and other “hotspot” areas.

“We need all hands on deck,” Elliott said. “There are a thousand moving parts on this, but it’s all moving very very quickly.”

The initiative will cost $125 million dollars. Elliott said the recipient hospitals were chosen in consultation with Ontario Health, the provincial Public Health authority, based in part on their capacity to open and operate critical care beds. These are in addition to the 3,100 hospital beds that have been funded across Ontario since the start of the pandemic.

Kingstonist has reached out to KHSC for more details on what the annoucement means locally, and will update this article as more information becomes available.

President and CEO of KHSC, Dr. David Pichora, confirmed to Kingstonist last week that local hospitals were preparing to receive patients from outside the region in response to overwhelming COVID-19 caseloads in hard-hit regions, such as Toronto and Peel.

“We have patients that are being transferred to Kingston and to Niagara,” Elliott said Monday. “This is not something that can continue for a long time.”

The Health Minster made the announcement alongside Ontario Premier Doug Ford at the soon-to-open Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital. Ontario’s first net new hospital in over 30 years, Ford said the new facility will open at a critical time during the provincial fight against COVID-19.

“This new hospital is relief,” Ford said. “It’s added capacity for all those heroes that are stretched to the limit each day.”

The province said Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital will temporarily focus on supporting the province’s short-term pandemic response when it opens on Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021. “The Emergency Department at Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital will not open until the system has stabilized,” they noted, with another emergency department at Mackenzie Richmond Hill Hospital open to serve the community.

According to the provincial government the latest modelling projects ICU occupancy to be as high as 1,000 beds by early February in “the most severe, but realistic scenarios.” Deaths are expected to double from 50 to 100 per day between now and the end of February.

Effective Thursday, January 14, 2021 at 12:01 a.m., a stay-at-home order is in effect across the province. Ontarians are required to remain at home except for essential purposes such as food, health care, exercise, or work. A Provincewide Shutdown, affecting business operations and schools, is also in effect until Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021.

UPDATE: Ontario says KHSC bed allocation under ‘consideration’

The provincial government is revising a statement made Monday when it announced 500 new surge capacity hospital beds were being opened in several Ontario cities, including Kingston.

“Today, I can announce that we’re investing $125 million dollars to get 500 additional surge beds in Toronto, Windsor, Durham, Kingston and Ottawa,” said Ontario Premier Doug Ford during a press conference on Monday, Jan. 18. 2021.

“These 500 new beds will reduce pressures on hospitals in these hotspot regions as we battle COVID-19. This is in addition to the 3,100 surge beds we added as part of our COVID-19 response.”

Ford and Ontario’s Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott went on to explain during the press conference that they were working with Ontario Health to select hospitals with the primary criteria focused on their physical capacity to add beds, and the availability of healthcare workers to staff them.

Elliott did not provide an exact timeline for the rollout but noted that things were moving very quickly. “It’s all happening very very quickly because we know that the need is great,” Elliott said, noting that the first 185 of the new beds were scheduled to open at Cortelluci Hospital in Vaughan on Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021

“The reality is we don’t have months to wait for these beds to come online,” Elliott said. “This is a serious capacity challenge. We’re looking at adding capacity as soon as we can, in some hospitals they may be able to open those critical care beds very quickly. Every additional critical care bed is going to make a difference.”

When Kingstonist reached out to Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC) following the announcement for more information, they responded that they had not received any information from the province on the topic.

Kingstonist also reached out to the Ministry of Health for further clarification, and received this response close to 9 p.m. on Monday night.

“In addition to Mackenzie Health CVH site, Ontario Health has identified the following regions that are currently under consideration: Toronto, Windsor, Durham, Kingston and Ottawa. Ontario Health will select these hospitals with the primary criteria focused on physical capacity to add beds and the availability of health human resources.”

A request for an explanation in the disparity between the Premier’s comments and the emailed statement as of end of day Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021, has not received a reply.

Samantha Butler-Hassan, Local Journalism Initiative

Samantha Butler-Hassan is a staff writer and life-long Kingston resident. She is a news junkie and mom who loves reading and exploring the community. This article has been made possible with the support of the Local Journalism Initiative.

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