coronavirus canada

Hospitals in Canada worry they won't be able to manage coronavirus patients

With new cases of the 2019 novel coronavirus popping up around the country every day, staff at Canadian hospitals are growing concerned that the system won't be able to cope if and when outbreaks increase and intensify.

Facilities will have to dramatically ramp up virus testing and analysis, along with implementing new equipment and procedures to protect healthcare workers and other patients if the number of COVID-19 cases in Canada begins to grow far beyond the current 77.

Though Canada's Chief Public Health Officer stands by the fact that our provincial healthcare systems are adequately prepared to deal with potential coronavirus outbreaks, other insiders are not so confident. 

A representative for HealthCareCAN, an organization that serves as "the voice" of hospitals across the country, told the Star that the situation is "not all under control" and that hospitals are only able to manage now due to the statistically low number of people who have needed to be assessed and/or treated for the communicable disease.

"Our system may not be prepared if there was a pandemic tomorrow morning," he said.

Hospitals in Canada are already overrun, especially with an aging population and especially during the standard influenza season  — patients are spending more and more hours in the emergency room, with those admitted to hospital in Ontario in January via emerge waiting an average of 18.3 hours.

Meanwhile, some Canadian cities are seeing an unrelated and "deeply concerning" issue with ambulance availability and an increasing number of instances where there are no emergency vehicles free to respond to calls.

Countries that are currently facing serious COVID-19 outbreaks, like Italy, are struggling with a lack of intensive care beds, staff shortages, low supply of masks and more. Doctors and nurses are even being called out of retirement to help deal with overwhelmed hospitals in some locations.

"Our hospital beds are fuller than at other time of year," B.C. Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said at a press conference about the country's first death from the virus on March 9, adding that her province is looking at what steps it can take to "augment public health capacity" in order to better deal with a potential large-scale outbreak — including asking retired health professionals for help.

How taxed the system becomes will depend on the extent of the spread of the novel virus, but perhaps moreso on the speed of that spread.

Hopefully officials' advice for people to self-isolate if they show any signs of respiratory illness — along with the fact that most COVID-19 cases in Canada have been mild enough not to require actual hospitalization — will mean fewer people end up bogging down already-stressed medical facilities if and when they fall ill with COVID-19.

Lead photo by

Luis Melendez/Unsplash

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