Ontario Adds Hundreds of Overseas-Trained Nurses to Hospitals Hit by Pandemic

Ontario is launching hundreds of internationally trained nurses into the fight against COVID-19 as thousands of hospital employees report ill or isolate themselves daily and a wave of hospitalizations from Omicron is expected to peak in early February.

About 300 nurses are being dispatched to 50 high-need hospitals “immediately” to care for patients under supervision and work toward obtaining their licenses in the province, Ontario Health CEO Matthew Anderson said Tuesday.

They will be among the 6,000 additional healthcare workers, including nursing students, medical students and other students from healthcare programs, who will join the COVID-19 effort by March 31, Health Minister Christine Elliott said in a press conference when Ontario reported 80 new admissions to intensive care units, the largest daily increase in the pandemic.

“Every nurse matters. Every person we can bring to the front line makes a difference, ”said Anderson, whose agency coordinates the many parts of Ontario’s health care system.

But critics pointed out that 300 nurses is an average of just six per hospital and questioned why it took Prime Minister Doug Ford’s administration nearly two years for the pandemic to reach this step, at a time when large hospitals see hundreds. of staff members unable to work.

“This administration has not yet figured out how to get ahead,” New Democrats leader Andrea Horwath told reporters after Elliott and Anderson’s press conference.

“I didn’t hear anything at all that would provide any details about what they are going to do and how they are going to integrate into a system that is currently in crisis,” she said of the nurses and students.

Ontario reported on Tuesday that there were 3,220 people in the hospital with COVID-19, an increase of 753 from the previous day and nearly triple the level of 1,290 a week ago. Emergency departments in many hospitals are overcrowded and far beyond capacity.

Hospitalization statistics are now being broken down, with 54 percent of patients admitted for COVID-19 and 46 percent admitted for other illnesses but testing positive for the coronavirus.

“While this does not change the dire situation in Ontario hospitals, we believe it is important to share this data to provide additional context,” Elliott said.

Of the 477 intensive care patients with COVID-19, 83 percent are there primarily for the coronavirus and 17 percent have it in addition to other medical problems that have put them in critical condition.

Elliott said 600 intensive care beds remain available and the province may add 500 more beds in hospital wards as admissions increase. Ontario has the capacity for nearly 2,500 ICU beds and 1,353 are already occupied by non-COVID-19 patients.

The scientific board of experts advising the Ford government estimates that intensive care occupancy is doubling every 8.5 days, suggesting that the province is targeting 1,000 ICU patients with COVID-19 by the end of next week.

The 300 nurses trained abroad are among 1,200 trained abroad who enrolled in a program to obtain their Ontario licenses and help alleviate the shortage of thousands of nurses that preceded the pandemic.

“I’m happy to see this finally happen, but we shouldn’t have waited until the hospitals were overwhelmed,” said liberal leader Steven Del Duca.

While many people assume that the Omicron variant of COVID-19, which tends to cause milder illness in those vaccinated and boosted who have no underlying medical conditions, is the only risk now, the more severe Delta variant is still circulating and is responsible for approximately 500 daily cases, said Dr. Peter Juni, scientific director of the scientific table.


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