April 27, 2021 By Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — The federal government is deploying military medical personnel to help Ontario’s beleaguered health-care system with a deadly third wave of COVID-19.
The government said Monday Ottawa has approved a request for assistance from Ontario to provide support to the province as it struggles with high rates of infections.
In a statement, it said the Canadian Armed Forces are preparing to deploy up to three multi-purpose medical assistance teams of nurses and medical technicians to hospitals and other facilities struggling to keep up with a spike of new infections.
Such teams were deployed into long-term care facilities in Ontario and Quebec last spring as the first wave of COVID-19 swept across the country.
Reconnaissance teams are expected to hit the ground on Tuesday to start assessing the specific needs at different health-care facilities as the federal and Ontario government iron out the final details.
“The Canadian Armed Forces will be there for Ontarians in their time of need alongside our partners,” Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said.
“We are ready, willing and able to help Ontarians through this tough time.”
The government said it is prepared to deploy federal health human resources and fund the redeployment of the Canadian Red Cross to augment or relieve staff within Ontario’s medical care facilities.
It also said the Royal Canadian Air Force personnel will be flying medical personnel from Newfoundland and Labrador to Toronto Tuesday to help in Ontario medical facilities.
Military aircraft are also being made available to fly medical professionals from other provinces to Ontario to help with the pandemic, with expectations that the first group will arrive on Tuesday from Newfoundland and Labrador.
Newfoundland Premier Andrew Furey announced on Monday that nine health-care workers are being sent to work in downtown Toronto, including three doctors, a nurse practitioner and five nurses.
Furey, whose wife Dr. Allison Furey works in pediatric emergency care and is among those heading to Ontario, has said the health-care workers are volunteers drawn from areas of Newfoundland and Labrador where there are adequate staffing levels.
Monday’s announcement followed a formal request from Queen’s Park for military and Canadian Red Cross assistance.
“We have been working with the federal government to identify health human resources located across various federal agencies who might be suitable for deployment to assist with the critical care surge in Ontario,” said Stephen Warner, spokesman for Ontario Solicitor General Sylvia Jones, in a statement.
“At the conclusion of that process, we have made a request for the assistance of those identified resources, many of whom reside, for example, within the Canadian Armed Forces and Canadian Red Cross organizations. In addition to health human resources, we are requesting logistical and operational support as we seek to augment our response to COVID-19.”
On the weekend, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said the province’s intensive care capacity “has been stretched to its limits by the U.K. variant” of the virus that causes COVID-19.
Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic Leblanc first announced last week that the military would fly medical personnel from other provinces and territories to Ontario, and that Ottawa would cover the transportation costs.
Leblanc said at the time that Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island had indicated a willingness to help Canada’s most populous province.
Ontario reported 3,510 new cases of COVID-19 Monday and 24 more deaths linked to the virus. Of the new cases, 1,015 were in Toronto, 909 in Peel Region, and 391 in York Region.
The Ministry of Health reported that 2,271 people are in hospital with COVID-19, but noted that more than 10 per cent of hospitals did not submit data over the weekend and that number will likely go up when those reports are received.
There are 877 people in intensive care because of the virus and 605 on ventilator.
A total 4,696,211 vaccine doses have been given in the province so far.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Apr. 26, 2021.
With files from Paola Loriggio in Toronto and Maan Alhmidi in Ottawa