Dec 22, 2021

By Jane Brown

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It’s a move designed to get ahead of the potential surge in COVID cases caused by the Omicron variant.

Hospitals within Unity Health Toronto, including St. Joseph’s and St. Michael’s, are cancelling outpatient appointments except for the most essential, and surgeries that are not urgent or emergencies, effective Monday. Outpatient procedures have been moved to virtual where possible.

And administrators at Unity Health Toronto and University Health Network have announced they are no longer allowing visitors for patients in their hospitals who are staying for less than seven days.

Visitor restrictions are also being introduced at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and Michael Garron Hospital.

Omicron’s exponential growth in cases has not yet translated into huge new numbers of people admitted to hospital and intensive care unit numbers are stable.

Dr. Michael Warner, head of the ICU unit at Michael Garron Hospital in Toronto, said many of the intensive care units in the GTA haven’t seen the impact of the Omicron variant yet, but they are being proactive to protect staff and patients.

“It’s really difficult to gauge what will happen,” he said, adding he is anticipating the variant’s maximum impact may not be felt until mid-to-late January.

Ontario’s chief medical officer explains it this way.

“We’ve looked at the 4600 Ontarians that have been confirmed to have Omicron…and only 15 were admitted to hospital, so that’s .15 percent admission rate. Now, admittedly that’s in a much younger population that’s gotten Omicron,” explained Dr. Kieran Moore at a Tuesday afternoon news conference.

But Dr. Moore says he anticipates in the coming days and weeks, we will start to see a greater impact of Omicron on hospitalizations and the intensive care unit.

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