More than 4,000 people in Canada have died because of the effects of the pandemic on the normal delivery of healthcare in Canada. This grim news comes on the same day that Ontario has crossed the dark milestone of 10,000 deaths due to COVID-19, and in the background of the growing concern about the Omicron variant. Even without a new variant though, the Canadian Medical Association is making it clear we’ve got healthcare issues.
“Over the past 20 months, COVID-19 overwhelmed our health system and the consequences to the broader patient population are now in plain sight. We are facing a significant backlog in procedures and treatments as well as more acute illnesses,” says CMA president Dr. Katharine Smart in a statement. “The legacy of this pandemic — which is still ongoing — will be felt for years to come, and we must start working now to keep the backlog problem from becoming even worse.”
The backlog is a pretty big issue right now though, and it’s affecting all kinds of patients. The CMA report, which was put together by Deloitte, looked at eight different procedures between April 2020 and June 2021, and on the low end there’s a 46-day weight for breast cancer surgery, and on the high end there’s a 118-day wait for hip replacements. In all, there are about 327,800 backlogged procedures in Canada, with 70 per cent of those procedures being MRI and CT scans, plus cataract surgeries, which is the third most common procedure.
So what do we do? Well, the CMA says that $1.3 billion in additional healthcare funding is need to bring the backlog back to pre-pandemic levels, but the report adds that this may not be enough funding once medical delays from the fourth wave are taken into account.
“The pandemic has exacerbated existing problems including the health human resource crisis. It will take significant efforts and commitments to rebuild the health system and invest in our health workforce,” Smart said. “Last week we were pleased to see the federal government take significant action to protect health care workers and are encouraged that the government is also prioritizing health investment and addressing the backlog as indicated in last week’s throne speech.”
On top of that, the excess mortality rates matched the peaks of COVID spread, first in April 2020 with the initial wave of the pandemic, and then again in December and January with the arrival of the second wave. Another wave that’s being blamed on the pandemic is a big increase in opioid-related deaths, 17 per day in 2020, which was an increase of 70 per cent from 2019. The report also notes that the rate increased to 20 opioid-related deaths per day in Canada in the first three months of 2021.
But on Tuesday, the news was about the 10,000 people in Ontario that have died from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic last year. Around 1.6 pr cent of all COVID-19 cases have resulted in death according to the Public Health Ontario website, nearly three-fifths of the fatalities have been in Ontarians over the age of 80, and over 90 per cent have been people over the age of 60.
“My thoughts are with the family members, friends and loved ones of the 10,000 Ontarians that have tragically died as a result of COVID-19,” said Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner in a statement marking the occasion. “Throughout the pandemic we witnessed a horrendous humanitarian crisis in our Long-Term Care homes. Residents and workers in these homes were on the front lines of battling the virus. The tragic living conditions, loss of life is unacceptable. Ontario must do better by putting care before profits.
“One life lost to COVID-19 was one too many. 10,000 is simply devastating. Let’s work together to do our best to avoid losing more Ontarians to this terrible virus,” Schreiner added.