With ICU cases climbing toward potentially devastating levels, health organizations plead for Ontarians to celebrate holiday season safely

RNAO issued on December 8, in conjunction with the Ontario Hospital Association, Ontario Medical Association, Registered Practical Nurses Association of Ontario, and Respiratory Therapy Society of Ontario the following media statement:

As COVID-19 cases reach record highs and the holiday season approaches, the association representing Ontario's hospitals and professional associations representing nurses, physicians and respiratory therapists are issuing an urgent and united plea for immediate action. It's the government's responsibility to put in place strong public health measures we know can prevent and control the spread of the virus. And, now more than ever, every Ontarian has a moral responsibility to strictly adhere to these important measures.

The number of people in intensive care in Ontario hospitals with COVID-19 is rising, with potentially devastating consequences for patients. If hospitals, emergency departments and ICUs are full, it means that surgeries, procedures, diagnostic tests and routine care will have to be delayed, adding to a substantial backlog not just in hot spots, but throughout Ontario. This risk affects all patients, not only those with COVID-19 – the postponement of cardiac or cancer surgeries, for example, puts thousands more in harm's way.

In the face of all this, Ontario's healthcare professionals continue to care for patients with courage, expertise and compassion. They are often called heroes, but they are also human beings under enormous physical, mental and emotional strain. Our organizations stand behind them, and we call on all Ontarians to join us by doing everything they can to curve the spread of the virus, save lives and limit the damage.

We know that fatigue with public health restrictions has set in, and that it is particularly painful to cancel traditional family gatherings – but this sacrifice pales in comparison to the pain of losing a loved one or watching them suffer. While seniors and other vulnerable populations are at greatest risk from COVID-19, we have also seen serious health consequences and deaths among younger people, and we appeal to them to follow public health guidelines and thank those that are doing the right thing.

No one is unaffected by COVID-19, and no one is exempt from doing their part. Whether you have a grandparent living in a long-term care home, a colleague with a heart condition, or a friend who is a nurse, physician, or respiratory therapist, we all know someone who needs and deserves our protection.

In the spirit of love, family and generosity that characterizes the holiday season, we ask all Ontarians to celebrate safely and responsibly. Celebrating at a distance is the best way to support healthcare professionals, and it is a small price to pay compared to the grief of those who could face far greater losses if we fail to do our part.

Anthony Dale
President and CEO, Ontario Hospital Association

Dr. Doris Grinspun
CEO, Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario

Dr. Samantha Hill
President, Ontario Medical Association

Dianne Martin
CEO, Registered Practical Nurses Association of Ontario

Paula Smith
President-Elect, Respiratory Therapy Society of Ontario

Here are the top five things all Ontarians can do to protect themselves and others:

  • Wash your hands often.
  • Wear a mask or face covering at all times, unless you are at home with housemates or outdoors at a guaranteed two metres' distance from others.
  • Stay away from crowded places.
  • Celebrate or gather only with members of your household. Don't invite others into your home.

Prepare for contact tracing if you get COVID-19. Download the COVID Alert app and/or keep track of where you go and when.