Media Release: FAO Releases Review of COVID-19’s Impact on Ontario’s Hospital Capacity


[La version française suit le texte anglais.]


TORONTO, April 28, 2020 - The FAO has released a report that provides a preliminary review of the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on the Ontario health sector, with a focus on hospital capacity.  

In the lead up to the COVID-19 outbreak, Ontario’s hospitals averaged 96 per cent occupancy, the highest among the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, leaving only 906 unoccupied acute care beds. To accommodate a potential influx in COVID-19 patients, the Province and Ontario hospitals funded new acute and critical care beds, cancelled elective surgeries and other non-urgent clinical activity, relocated 1,000 hospital patients to alternative settings and deployed additional ventilators. These actions freed-up an additional 9,349 acute care beds, of which 2,077 were critical care beds. 

At the same time, the Province undertook strict economic and social measures to slow and limit the spread of the virus in order to delay and lower the peak number of infections, thereby reducing hospital demand. As of April 23, there were 910 hospitalized COVID-19 patients leaving over 9,000 unoccupied acute care hospital beds (including over 2,000 critical care beds). As a result, the Province has a significant amount of remaining available capacity to accommodate COVID-19 hospitalizations.  

As of April 23, the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations is continuing to increase, likely due to the ongoing outbreak in long-term care homes. It has been reported that some long-term care homes have begun to transfer residents to local hospitals, thereby utilizing unoccupied hospital beds. This may allow LTC homes to better isolate their remaining residents and more effectively manage the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Looking forward, the spread of the virus and the impact on hospital capacity remains uncertain and will be influenced by the Province’s actions to lift the containment measures and resume normal operations in the economy and the health sector. The timing of relaxing the COVID-19 lockdown measures will depend on a number of factors, including the capacity of hospitals to conduct normal procedures. The FAO estimates that as of April 22, up to 52,700 hospital procedures have been cancelled or avoided and, every week that the COVID-19 outbreak continues, up to 12,200 more procedures are delayed.

To learn more, read the full report here.


  • In 2019-20, there were 141 public hospitals serving the Province, with around 34,700 beds, of which 22,400 were acute care beds.

  • When compared to other countries, Ontario’s rate of total hospital beds per 1,000 people is among the lowest in the OECD and the Province’s occupancy rate of 96 per cent is the highest. 

  • Health sector spending is projected to increase by 5.4 per cent to $67.8 billion in 2020-21, the largest year-over-year per cent increase since 2009-10. This includes $2.1 billion directed to the COVID-19 response. 

  • The FAO estimates that between April 13 and 23, over 30 per cent of new COVID-19 cases in Ontario were from long-term care homes. 

  • If the state of emergency measures announced on March 17 had been implemented five days later, the FAO projects that the number of concurrent critical care COVID-19 patients would have been over four times greater than what has occurred to date. 

  • In the March 2020 Ontario Economic and Fiscal Update, the Province increased public health funding by $85 million in 2020-21 and reversed a planned funding cut of $114 million.  

About the FAO

Established by the Financial Accountability Officer Act, 2013, the Financial Accountability Office (FAO) provides independent analysis on the state of the Province’s finances, trends in the provincial economy and related matters important to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Visit and follow us on Twitter at


For further information, please contact:
Jessica Martin l 647 527 2385 l l