Thousands of Canadians Died Because COVID-19 Delayed Surgeries, Doctors Say

OTTAWA – Doctors in Canada say the COVID-19 pandemic greatly affected the health of Canadians, including those who did not get it, with delayed surgeries and procedures costing thousands of lives and continuing to devastate 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 end some of the most dangerous delays in key health services by June 2022 and return to pre-pandemic service levels. .

The report said that in a four-month period alone last year, the number of “excess deaths” in Canada not related to COVID-19 infections was more than 4,000 for the period from August to December 2020.

That’s roughly five percent higher than the expected mortality rate for a normal year and is also in line with excess mortality in international jurisdictions.

It is also in line with the figures that Statistics Canada has reported during 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 a 5.3% more deaths than would be expected in the absence of a pandemic after accounting for changes in the population, such as aging.

The CMA report is titled “A System in Struggle” and is released just as policy makers and the medical community are rushing to prepare for what could be a fifth wave, fueled by an even more transmissible virus variant. called Omicron.

“If this variant ends up being more significant, or the impacts on the system are similar to Delta’s again, or worse, we were already in a situation where the system has no background. It’s starting to fail, ”said CMA President Dr. Katharine Smart.

In an interview, Smart said that during the pandemic the system relied on “band-aid-like temporary fixes (and) this kind of hope that things will just fix themselves. Instead, what we have is a system that continues to decline. We are not really hearing from any level of government a real plan on how to fix it. “

Smart said that “one of the problems is that the system needs more investment. But I think it is also quite clear that the system itself is broken in many ways, and needs to be reinvented for modern times, modern ones … Otherwise, it will be Canadians who will pay the price with their health, and that is obviously what it already is. happening.”

To date, 29,618 Canadians have died directly from COVID-19. When the pandemic first hit, medical professionals switched to virtual consultations with patients, which helped offset a higher cost.

But in-person visits by specialists with people with chronic illnesses plummeted in the early months of the pandemic and is still lagging behind.

Almost a year after the crisis, in January this year, visits for patients with hypertensive heart disease were still 60% lower than usual and 87% lower for patients with diabetes.

“Chronic disease control that is lost or delayed can lead to serious and costly complications, such as heart attacks or even death,” the report said.

The report estimated delays in Ontario for key cancer screening services: it lists a gap of 389,347 Pap tests, 307,617 mammograms and 297,299 fecal tests that detect colon cancer that needed to be done.

Other services, such as nursing home care provider home care assessments, which are a form of health screening for seniors to determine what their health needs are, declined during the first wave between March and April. 2020 by 44 percent, and while they recovered a bit, he said most are still virtual dating.

The report looked at delays in eight procedures: breast cancer surgeries, coronary artery bypass graft, CT scans, MRIs, colectomies, knee replacements, cataract surgery, and hip replacements, and found delays due to delays in the COVID that ranged from 46 to 118 days.

It also comes as another group, the Health Charities Coalition of Canada, also called on MPs 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 the provision of healthcare and consequently on patients,” the coalition said in a statement.

He cited examples of people with diabetic foot problems who had more severe infections during the pandemic and “an increase in emergencies that required more amputations, and amputations that had tended to be more extensive.”

To date, Health Canada says 1.7 million Canadians have been infected with COVID, and public health doctors again on Monday urged those who have not yet been vaccinated to get vaccinated, even as countries now face the decision. to expand booster vaccines to the general population. .


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