Caution is crucial as COVID-19 restrictions loosen: Dr. Nathanson
Amid reports that the province plans to update its COVID-19 guidance, potentially eliminating capacity limits inside restaurants and fitness facilities, Stevenson Memorial Hospital's chief of staff says caution is crucial.
Dr. Barry Nathanson says that changes to capacity limits in some non-essential businesses can be done safely so long as reliance on health measures, such as masking, isn't abandoned.
"If we were to all embark upon and use these standard measures, even going forward with loosening of the provincially mandated restrictions, we can all be safe, we can all have a good time, and we can get together safely, enjoy ourselves and stay well," says Nathanson.
The changes to capacity limits are expected to be announced Friday, one week after the province eliminated most restrictions in some of Ontario's sports and concert facilities.
The province is also reportedly in discussions with Saskatchewan to help alleviate some of the pressure on its overwhelmed health care centre.
As the prairie province inches closer to enacting its triage policy, where medical professionals would be put in a position to choose who receives life-saving care and who doesn't, Nathanson says many Ontario doctors want to help.
"On balance, I think hospitals are ready," the Alliston doctor says. "I think we, medical providers, are more than willing and desirers of helping our fellow Canadians in other provinces, but there's no question that we in Ontario and hospitals in Ontario are really struggling with very significant issues."
However, Nathanson says that doesn't mean Ontario's health care system is without its own challenges. While it has long suffered from staffing shortages, he says that new vaccine mandates for staff add to the struggle.
"None of us who have had a hand in supporting these vaccine mandates for healthcare workers took these decisions lightly," says Nathanson. "We understand and acknowledge the erosion of some freedoms that we all enjoy and unfortunately take for granted sometimes."
Nathanson says he doesn't doubt that the new mandates will lead to challenges on the already stretched system, with many non-essential surgeries cancelled or delayed.
He adds one of the main goals of the mandate is to increase vaccination uptake.
"We need to put the safety of our patients and the safety of our community first, and to the credit of hospitals across Ontario, that's what we're doing," says Nathanson. "That is our job, and Ontarians look to us for provision of safe care, and we will provide safe care."
In terms of travel, Nathanson says in his experience and research, it can be done safely.
Similar to the lifting of capacity restrictions, he says that masking, distancing when possible, and hand hygiene are vital to having a safe trip.
"I would encourage Canadians to start to break out of whatever shell or protective casement that has built to protect themselves over the past while, but carefully and cautiously," says Nathanson.