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Ontario lifts Directive 2, allowing less urgent surgeries to resume

Ontario had imposed Directive 2 during Omicron wave, pausing many less urgent medical procedures.
woman surgeon surgery

ONTARIO -- Less urgent medical procedures that were put on hold last month to preserve hospital capacity amid the Omicron surge can now gradually resume, the provincial government has announced.

The government stressed that process would unfold with caution and in phases, based on guidance from Ontario Health and local conditions.

“Thanks to the sacrifices of Ontarians and unwavering efforts of our health care workers, we are now in a position to resume additional surgeries and procedures,” said Minister of Health Christine Elliott. “We recognize the impact these measures have had on patients.”

The move comes as the record-breaking strain Omicron put on the province’s hospitals appears to be easing.

COVID-19 hospitalizations peaked at over 4,000 across the province in mid-to-late January, with ICU admissions and deaths peaking slightly afterwards.

All of those figures have declined significantly over the past week, though they remain at levels that are among the highest throughout the pandemic.

Hospitalizations have remained high locally, but noticeably below peak levels seen at the beginning of the month.

The number of people in Thunder Bay’s regional hospital with the virus was at 47 on Thursday, compared to a high of 59 on Feb. 1.

Nine COVID-positive patients were in ICU, according to a hospital update Thursday. The hospital’s medical/surgical capacity stood at 106.5 per cent, and its ICU occupancy at 90.9 per cent.

A representative for the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre said Thursday the hospital was still awaiting details and direction from the province on the lifting of Directive 2.

Hospital CEO Rhonda Crocker-Ellacott said last week the resumption of procedures will be based in part on staffing capacity. Over three per cent of the hospital's staff was off due to COVID-19 infection or exposure at that time.

A plan including a timeline for resumption of procedures will be communicated when ready, the hospital said.

Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Kieran Moore, instituted Directive 2 on Jan. 5, pausing non-urgent and non-emergent procedures.

The directive was revised on Feb. 1 to allow diagnostic imaging, cancer screening, and procedures at paediatric specialty hospitals.

In a release Thursday, the province also announced the resumption of extra-curriculars including high-contact sports in high schools.

The government advised that, based on public health advice, masking and daily screening would be required, though masks can be removed for some activities like basketball or playing a musical instrument, it said.

Note: This article has been updated with comment from the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre.


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