OTTAWA -- The top doctors at Ottawa's hospitals are urging everyone to follow Ontario's stay at home orders to help reduce COVID-19 transmission and allow hospitals to continue delivering in-person care during the pandemic.

The medical chiefs of staff at the Ottawa Hospital, the Queensway-Carleton Hospital, the Montfort Hospital, CHEO, the University of Ottawa Heart Institute and the Royal released a joint statement on Friday, saying, "Stay home. Stay safe, Save lives."

"If COVID-19 cases rise too high, there is a risk that our ICUs will begin to reach capacity," said the statement. "This puts in jeopardy all the post-surgical care they provide. No room in our ICUs means scheduled surgeries must be delayed."

According to the statement, more than 17,000 people across Ottawa are currently waiting for surgery.

The chiefs of staff asked everyone to adhere to provincial public health restrictions, except for essential reasons – like seeking medical care, essential work, groceries and exercise. The doctors ask people not to socialize in person, noting it is currently a major source of COVID-19 transmission in the community.

"We want our teams to continue delivering in-person care, whether that’s surgeries, diagnostic tests or specialist appointments," said the statement on the importance of lowering COVID-19 cases in the community.

"It’s important to do because the impact of COVID-19 on health-care services goes far beyond those who contract the virus. It affects everyone who needs hospital services."

Surgeries, diagnostic procedures and various speciality care appointments are continuing during the COVID-19 lockdown in Ottawa and southern Ontario. Virtual appointments will also be scheduled, whenever possible.

Ottawa Hospital Chief of Staff Dr. Virginia Roth told Newstalk 580 CFRA's Ottawa Now with Kristy Cameron that people have been travelling out of town for surgeries.

"All hospitals across the region have opened their doors, where they've had the equipment and the capacity to do so," said Dr. Roth.

"So we have absolutely been sharing patients back and forth, and it's really been a great collaboration."

Several dozen patients from the Ottawa Hospital have been transferred to the Renfrew hospital for treatment during the pandemic.

Dr. Roth said patients needing emergency surgery will still receive care during the pandemic.

"We are watching from day-to-day and what we're doing is working together across the region, and that includes from Pembroke to Cornwall, to make sure that patients have access to care," said Dr. Roth.

"We'll always make sure patients who need emergency surgery get it immediately, and that's happened during the pandemic."

The hospitals say staff are working "full-steam ahead" to make up for the many cancellations of in-person care that happened in the spring and summer at the start of the pandemic.

"However, our ability to make up this ground is in your control. We must all do everything we can to keep down the level of COVID-19 in the community," said the statement from the medical chiefs of staff.

"Failure to do so will lead to staffing and bed shortages, which will force us to cancel surgeries, diagnostics and other in-person care appointments, once again. These appointments could be yours, your parents’ or your own child’s. We don’t want that."

The medical chiefs of staff at Ottawa's hospitals have three tips for people to help limit the spread of COVID-19 in the community:

  • Ensure you and your family get tested when someone has any possible COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Don’t socialize in person. This is the major source of spread right now.
  • Be careful during your breaks and in break rooms, if you are at work. Stay two meters apart. Mask when you’re not eating or drinking.