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Niagara hospitals to resume non-urgent surgical procedures as COVID-19 cases drop

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As cases of COVID-19 continue to decrease in Niagara and across the province, the region’s hospitals have been given the green light to resume non-urgent surgical procedures.

Niagara Health hospitals announced Wednesday non-emergency surgeries will resume next Tuesday, starting with day surgeries and other outpatient procedures and moving to inpatient surgeries later in the week.

This comes after Ontario chief medical officer of health Dr. David Williams rescinded an emergency order issued April 20 that put a temporary stop to the procedures to free up resources for COVID-19 patients.

Niagara Health president and interim chief executive officer Lynn Guerriero called it “terrific news for our patients and teams.”

“We understand the impact the postponement of scheduled surgeries and procedures have had on our patients, their families and caregivers, and our teams are working full out to safely reintroduce these services,” she said in a statement.

The decision to rescind the emergency order was a result of dropping COVID-19 rates, hospitalizations and intensive care admissions across the province.

Niagara Region Public Health reported 66 new cases of the virus Wednesday, as well as there being 1,247 active cases.

The number of people infected with the virus has now fallen to below the 1,284 reported during the peak of the second wave on Jan. 16.

A record of 4,831 doses of vaccine were administered Tuesday, bringing the total shots-in-arms in the region to 235,202.

Health-care workers from Niagara Health hospitals and public health both set new records for the number of vaccinations being provided per day, with 2,142 doses administered at the hospital system’s mass vaccination clinic at Seymour-Hannah Sports and Entertainment Centre in St. Catharines and 2,311 doses administered by public health currently running a clinic at Meridian Community Centre in Pelham. Niagara pharmacists added 393 doses Tuesday, while 239 Niagara residents left the region to receive their vaccine.

Appointments for vaccinations can be booked through the provincial portal Ontario.ca/bookvaccine or by phone at 1-888-943-3900, or by registering on the websites of participating pharmacies.

Although the third wave of the virus is subsiding, Niagara’s hospital intensive care units remain over capacity, with Level 3 ICUs at 186 per cent capacity.

On Wednesday, ICU staff were treating 23 patients with COVID-19 as well as other patients.

Niagara hospitals typically have 14 ICU beds, but 12 more were opened in April to accommodate COVID-19 patients.

In addition to those in ICU, there were 22 more patients being treated for the virus in the hospital, as of Wednesday morning.

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Niagara Health chief of staff Dr. Johan Viljoen said hospitals will gradually resume services as conditions allow.

“Although our teams are eager to reintroduce these services and address our backlog, we will need to be cautious and innovative with our efforts,” he said. “Thankfully, hospitalizations and ICU admissions appear to be trending downward. However, our ICUs continue to be under significant pressure from patient volume and staffing perspectives.”

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