Brampton, Etobicoke hospitals grapple with surge of ICU patients, surgery backlog


As vaccines begin to be distributed to overwhelmed hospitals across the Greater Toronto Area, William Osler Health System (WOHS), which was operating at full capacity, has been transporting patients in intensive care units to other hospitals to manage the demand.

WOHS administered Brampton's first COVID-19 vaccination on Tuesday after opening a COVID-19 vaccine clinic at Brampton Civic Hospital.

The hospital network consists of Brampton Civic Hospital, Etobicoke General Hospital and the Peel Memorial Centre for Integrated Health and Wellness.

As of Tuesday, hospitals have 27 COVID-19 patients in ICUs in Brampton Civic Hospital and Etobicoke General Hospital, according to WOHS.

"We have been in the eye of the storm for wave two for quite a few weeks," said Kiki Ferrari, chief operations officer, WOHS.

Ferrari said WOHS now has capacity but credits it solely to its ability to transfer patients to partnering hospitals in the GTA over the past three weeks.

"We've transferred about a dozen critical care patients across the system, we've also reduced our non-urgent elective surgeries so we have staff available in our ICUs in our organization to deal with our COVID-19 positive patients," Ferrari said.

With 60 per cent of surgeries delayed, Ferrari said the first priority for the health system is to redeploy staff and free them up as there wasn't a sufficient number of staff to care for ICU patients at the hospital before it began transferring patients.

Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown said in a tweet on Monday that the hospital system was at full capacity but thanked the three hospitals which took in patients from Brampton Civic and Etobicoke General hospitals. 

While it continues to deal with the demand in ICUs, the hospital has also begun rolling out COVID-19 vaccines.

Vilma Whyte, a personal support worker with Tullamore Care Community, was the city's first recipient of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine under Phase One of the Ontario government's three-phased immunization program.

Brown said vaccine rollout day was a long-awaited day for residents and front-line workers of the city.

"It's a great relief today that V day has arrived in Brampton, we've been hit really hard by this pandemic. We have so many essential workers on the front line," Brown said.

"This was desperately needed."

As the vaccine continues to roll out to front-line workers in Peel Region with 50 vaccinated Tuesday and 90 scheduled for Wednesday, the goal is to hit 300 vaccinations a day in the coming weeks, Ferrari said.