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Helping Hospitals Manage Spikes in Critical Care

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Helping Hospitals Manage Spikes in Critical Care

McGuinty Government Improves Access To Services For Critically Ill Patients

Ministry of Health

Ontario is launching a new program to help hospitals better manage sudden increases in demand for critical care services. 

The surge capacity management program will give hospitals and staff the tools they need to better handle dramatic increases in volume of patients who are in life-threatening situations.  The program will :

  • Ensure patients are transferred from the emergency room or operating room to critical care services, as quickly as possible. This new program has the potential to reduce ambulance offload delays as well as emergency room and surgery wait times.
  • Mobilize hospital staff, equipment and technology from other parts of the hospitals to handle the short-term increase in demand in the critical care department.
  • Improve communication between hospitals in each of the regions covered by the province's 14 Local Health Integration Networks (LHIN).
  • Allow hospitals to work together and coordinate their resources to help a hospital facing an overwhelming increase in critical care patients, such as a major disease outbreak.

Starting in March 2009, Ontario's Critical Care Strategy will begin working with 124 hospitals to implement the surge capacity management program. The program will be fully implemented across the province by March 2010.

The program builds on the successes of a demonstration project run through the Champlain LHIN, which enabled Ottawa-area hospitals to coordinate their resources when a larger-than-usual number of critical care patients were in need of care.

Quick Facts

  • A Critical Care Unit cares for a hospital’s most seriously ill and unstable patients
  • In 2006, Ontario launched a comprehensive $90 million Critical Care Strategy to reduce wait times and improve access to care.
  • Ontario has 1,800 Intensive Care Unit Beds in 213 Critical Care units spread across 127 hospitals.

Additional Resources


“I’m proud of the progress the Champlain LHIN has made with the Surge Management Program. Ottawa-area hospitals are now better equipped to handle a sudden influx of critical care patients. I look forward to seeing hospitals across the province have similar success as they begin to implement this program.”

David Caplan

Minister of Health and Long-Term Care

“The Surge Capacity Management plan will assist hospitals in the planning for surge events when demand exceeds the resources. It will help guide the provincial health care system in planning and ensuring patients have timely access to care.”

Dr. Chris Mazza

Ornge president and CEO and Physician Advisor Surge Capacity Management

“Surge management plans are all about learning new ways of dealing with unexpected increases in demand for critical care services. Under this new program hospital staff will learn new techniques to better respond to capacity challenges. Through pre-determined plans for resources and enhanced communication techniques hospitals will be able to manage surge events. Because each part of the system affects the others when fully implemented the program will enable hospital areas to work together to ensure patient care is provided in a seamless manner.”

Dr. Bernard Lawless

Provincial Lead, Critical Care and Trauma, Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care



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