Emergency doctors fear combination of COVID-19 and flu season will overwhelm the system

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TORONTO – A group of emergency physicians is urging Canadians to get the flu shot as a second wave of COVID-19 combined with the flu could overwhelm the healthcare system. Dr Atul Kapur, co-chair of the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians (CAPE), said Canadian hospitals are already suffering from a “chronic overcrowding situation” and expects it to worsen that in the near future.

“We are concerned that with this coming second wave of COVID, and the steady and predictable wave of influenza to come, that we are ready to be overwhelmed again,” he told CTV News Channel.

“We believe that the two waves crashing at the same time will pose a huge risk to ourselves and to the people.”

Kapur suggests that the more Canadians who get the flu shot, the less of a potential burden the healthcare system faces this fall and winter.

“The importance of getting the flu shot is more important than ever,” he says. “Even if you’ve never had one before, this is the year to make sure you get the flu shot.”

On Tuesday, CAPE released a series of short-, medium- and long-term recommendations aimed at helping doctors weather a second wave of the pandemic during flu season.

These include ensuring physicians have access to appropriate personal protective equipment, improving the design of waiting rooms to help with physical distance guidelines, increasing the national immunization rate and provide support to frontline staff.

“We take care of this not only as caregivers of our patients, but also in our roles as family members,” Kapur said.

“This stress persists and wears off and we are looking to see that supports are put in place to help our members and all health care providers.

At the height of the pandemic in the spring, hospitals began prioritizing COVID-19 patients, which meant many elective or non-essential surgeries were postponed or canceled altogether.

Kapur said that this method of care cannot continue in the second wave.

“The way we have done it is not sustainable and we are already seeing that hospitals are already facing situations of overcrowding,” he said.

While it is not clear when it is appropriate to call the COVID-19 situation in Canada a “second wave,” the country has seen a significant increase in cases over the past week.

The provinces reported a total of 1,248 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, mostly in Ontario and Quebec.

“We stress the importance of following all public health guidelines,” Kapur said. “We know it’s difficult, but it’s so important.”

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