Toronto hospital transfers some COVID-19 patients to other hospitals due to oxygen supply concerns

TORONTO — A Toronto hospital had to transfer a small number of coronavirus patients to other hospitals due to concerns about a lack of oxygen supply for all patients battling the deadly disease.

On Thursday, Michael Garron Hospital released a statement saying it identified “potential risks to its oxygen supply” early this morning due to the high volume of COVID-19 patients requiring oxygen at the hospital.

“MGH proactively reached out to hospital partners and the GTA Incident Management System (IMS) Command table to transfer a small number of patients. The hospital also brought on additional temporary oxygen capacity, so that all patients requiring oxygen in the hospital have what they need, and no patients are at risk,” Mark Fam, vice president of Programs said in a statement.

Speaking to CP24 Thursday afternoon, Fam confirmed that 10 patients had to be transferred to other hospitals to reduce oxygen demand. He added that they also postponed seven surgeries.

“Early in wave one last spring, we added additional oxygen capacity at the hospital. Part of that work was to put some early warning signs so that if we were starting to reach capacity, we would know that, and we saw that happen overnight. We never lost oxygen. But that point, we wanted to make sure we had good capacity,” he said.

“Our patients were not at risk. We really wanted to be proactive today to make sure that we could manage that supply.”

MGH has at least 19 ICU beds, according to its website.

Fam said this is the first time during the COVID-19 pandemic that oxygen demand in the hospital peaked. However, he noted that Toronto has a good supply.

Michael Garron Hospital’s assessment centre

“We won’t see those situations as we’ve seen in India. I’m encouraged by the science tables guidance today that we’re seeing a crest overall in COVID-19 volumes,” Fam said.

“I think if we stay on the same track, we should be in good shape.”

The oxygen supply concerns come as India is making headlines for daily COVID-19 cases in the hundreds of thousands and its hospitals running out of oxygen to treat all patients.

Infectious diseases specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch, who also sits on the province’s COVID-19 vaccine task force, told CP24 that Ontario will not experience the same issue as India.

“That’s not an issue in Ontario or anywhere else in Canada. Awful to watch what’s happening in India…Support and love and love and support to our Indian friends and colleagues but we won’t have those issues in Ontario,” Bogoch said Thursday morning.

Although Ontario continues to see heightened COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, the province appears to be showing early signs of improvement as Ontario’s seven-day rolling average of new cases hit 3,810 today, down from 4,176 a week ago.

Yesterday, a total of 2,248 people were hospitalized in Ontario due to the virus, down from 2,281 the previous day.

Of those hospitalized, 884 were in intensive care units and 620 were breathing with the help of a ventilator.

Earlier this month, a senior Ontario Health official said triage protocols could be activated if patients in ICU surpass 900.

Last week, Ontario’s top doctor ordered all hospitals to halt all non-emergent surgeries and non-urgent procedures immediately to cope with the influx of COVID-19 patients.

Ontario released its latest pandemic modelling data today and said there are more than 257,500 surgeries in backlog across the province and clearing the backlog will be an ‘enormous challenge.’

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