OTTAWA — Canada’s doctors say the COVID-19 pandemic took a staggering toll on Canadian health, including those who did not get it, with delayed surgeries and procedures that cost thousands of lives and continue to ravage people’s health.
In a new report prepared by Deloitte for the Canadian Medical Association, researchers said it would cost at least $ 1.3 billion to complete some of the most dangerous backlogs in key health services by June 2022 and return to pre-pandemic service levels.
The report said in a four-month period alone last year, the number of “excess deaths” in Canada unrelated to COVID-19 infections was more than 4,000 for the period August to December 2020.
It is about five percent higher than the expected mortality rate for a normal year and in line with the excess mortality rate also in international jurisdictions.
This is also in line with figures reported by Statistics Canada for the first 18 months of the pandemic, from March 2020 to early July 2021. The agency says there were an estimated 19,501 excess deaths in Canada, or 5.3 percent more deaths than would be expected if there was no pandemic after taking into account changes in the population, such as aging.
The CMA report is entitled “A Struggling System” and is published just as public policy makers and the medical community are struggling to prepare for what could be a fifth wave, driven by an even more transmissible virus variant called Omicron.
“If this variant ends up being more significant, or the effects on the system are similar to Delta again, or worse, we were already in a situation where there is no background to the system. It is starting to fail,” said CMA President Dr. Katharine Smart.
In an interview, Smart said that throughout the pandemic, the system relied on “temporary band-aid solutions (and) this kind of hope that things will just fix themselves. Instead, what we have is a system that “We are not really hearing from any level of government an actual plan on how to solve this.”
Smart said “one of the problems is that the system needs more investment. But I also think it is quite clear that the system itself is broken in many ways and it needs to be reformulated into the modern, the modern time… Otherwise will it’s Canadians paying the price with their health, and that’s obviously what’s already happening. “
To date, 29,618 Canadians have died from COVID-19 directly. When the pandemic first hit, doctors switched to virtual consultations with patients, which helped offset a larger toll.
But personal specialist visits with people suffering from chronic diseases declined in the first months of the pandemic and are still lame.
Nearly a year into the crisis, in January this year, visits for patients with hypertensive heart disease were still 60 percent lower than normal and 87 percent lower for patients with diabetes.
“Forgotten or delayed treatment of chronic disease can lead to serious and costly complications, such as heart attack or even death,” the report said.
The report estimated delays in Ontario for major cancer screening services: it shows a gap of 389,347 Pap tests, 307,617 mammograms and 297,299 fecal tests that detect colon cancer that needed to be performed.
Other services such as home care assessments by nursing home providers – which are a form of health screening for seniors to determine what their health needs are – fell during the first wave between March and April 2020 by 44 percent, and while they increased somewhat, it said that the majority are still virtual agreements.
The report looked at backlogs for eight procedures: breast cancer surgery, coronary bypass graft, CT scans, MRI scans, colectomies, knee replacements, gray star surgeries and hip replacements, and found backlogs due to COVID delays ranged from 46 to 118 days.
It also comes as another group, the Health Charities Coalition of Canada, also urged lawmakers on Monday to act to fill the health gaps revealed by the pandemic.
“It is impossible to underestimate the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on healthcare delivery and, consequently, on patients,” the coalition said in a statement.
It cited examples of people with diabetic foot problems who during the pandemic had more serious infections and “increased emergencies that necessitated more amputations, and the amputations they had tended to be more extensive.”
To date, Health Canada says 1.7 million Canadians have been infected with COVID, and health doctors again on Monday urged those who have not yet been vaccinated to get their shots, even though countries are now facing the decision to expand booster shots for the general population.
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