Delayed Cardiac Surgeries Due to Pandemic May Have Caused 35 Deaths in Ontario

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott says a hospital network has estimated that 35 people may have died during the COVID-19 pandemic because their cardiac surgeries weren’t performed.

Elliott says the report was released by Toronto’s University Health Network, though the organization did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Thousands of surgeries were postponed or cancelled in order to ensure enough acute and critical capacity in Ontario hospitals for a possible surge of COVID-19 patients.

Elliott says any death that has happened due to COVID-19, whether directly or indirectly, is a tragedy.

She adds Ontario’s actions during the pandemic have saved thousands of lives.

The province’s Financial Accountability Office released a report Tuesday saying about 52,000 procedures have already been cancelled or avoided, and while that has eased pressure on hospitals, the longer they’re postponed the worse the health outcomes will be.

Ontario reported 525 more COVID-19 cases Tuesday, ending several days in a row of declines in new cases and likely pushing back any reopening of the province’s economy.

In a reopening framework announced Monday, the provincial government said the chief medical officer will be looking for a consistent, two-to-four-week decrease in the number of new cases before advising moving to the first stage.

The new provincial total of 15,381 casesis an increase of 3.5 per cent over the previous day’s total and includes 951 deaths — 59 more than the previous day — and 8,964 resolved cases.

Dr. David Williams would also be looking for fewer new hospitalizations, and those numbers also rose Tuesday, though the numbers of people in intensive care and on ventilators declined slightly.

The Ministry of Long-Term Care reported 34 new deaths in residents of those facilities — a number that comes from a different database than the overall provincial figures.

While health officials have said community spread is in a peak period, cases in long-term care homes are rising. There are outbreaks in 154 long-term care homes, up from 150 on Monday.

Some homes have been hit particularly hard, with 11 of them reporting 20 or more deaths.

Ontario has called in operational support from the Canadian Armed Forces for five homes — Orchard Villa in Pickering, Altamont Care Community in Toronto, Eatonville Care Centre in Toronto, Hawthorne Place in Toronto and Holland Christian Homes’ Grace Manor in Brampton.

Orchard Villa has seen 48 of its residents die, Eatonville has had 37 deaths, and Altamont has seen 32 residents and one personal support worker die.

Two homes reported major increases in deaths from the previous day. The total at Isabel and Arthur Meighen Manor in Toronto rose from 22 on Monday to 32 on Tuesday in the 52-bed facility. The total at Forest Heights in Kitchener rose from 24 to 31.

The NDP is calling for public health units to take over direct management of long-term care homes “where seniors aren’t well-protected,” and for the province to mandate requirements for infection control, staffing and communication with residents and their families.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 28, 2020.

Allison Jones, The Canadian Press

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