Experts don’t know if Quebec’s healthcare system can withstand the latest COVID-19 outbreak

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As COVID-19 cases increase in Quebec at a rate not seen since the spring, health experts urge the government to take more drastic measures to spare the besieged health care system additional stress.Quebec reported 896 new cases on Sunday, a figure close to the worst days of April and May. However, hospitalizations and deaths are currently much lower than they were in the first wave.

Nonetheless, hospitalizations have increased 46% over the past week. There are currently 216 COVID-19 patients in the hospital, including 41 in intensive care.

According to experts, the drop in the number of hospitalizations can be explained by the higher percentages of young people who test positive for the disease. At this age, they are less likely to develop complications.

The CHSLD Idola Saint-Jean de Laval has suspended visits due to an outbreak on one of its floors. (Jean-Claude Taliana / CBC)

But doctors at Montreal hospitals say they’re actually admitting younger patients, potentially posing a new set of challenges for the healthcare system.

Dr François Marquis, head of intensive care at Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital in Montreal, said the younger patients he saw took longer to recover.

“We might end up, in this second wave, with a problem where a small number of young people fill our intensive care beds because they don’t die, but they don’t get better. They are stuck in between, ”Marquis said in an interview with Radio-Canada.

“It is a reality that the population has not understood and that young people, unfortunately, have not understood. ”

Dr Matthew Oughton, an infectious disease physician at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal, said he expects hospitalizations to increase faster in about a month as young people pass the virus on to older generations. .

“We’re going to be back in the kind of crisis that we know many hospitals in Quebec were back in the latter part of March and April,” Oughton said.

Concern about long-term care again

Another area of ​​concern as cases increase is the plight of long-term care homes.

During the first wave of the pandemic, hundreds of public establishments (called CHSLDs) experienced outbreaks, which killed nearly 4,000 people.

The government has promised sweeping changes to protocol and staffing levels to prevent a similar catastrophe from happening again. But in recent days, outbreaks in several CHSLDs and retirement homes have worried observers.

Visits had to be suspended at the CHSLD Idola Saint-Jean in Laval on Saturday, after 11 patients and seven employees tested positive for the virus.

Meanwhile, 10 people who tested positive at Résidence l’Initial en Outouais and patients at CHSLD Herron – where 38 people died in the spring – are again in heatstroke after a member of staff tested positive there. .

“It is extremely worrying. This should no longer happen, ”said Dr. Cécile Tremblay, specialist in infectious diseases at the University of Montreal hospital.

“The government has been tough on this and said it won’t happen again, it does happen again. ”

Tremblay said that even though the government has hired more patient care workers, long-term care homes still face a shortage of nurses and staff-to-patient ratios are far from ideal.

People wear face masks outside a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal on Sunday September. (Graham Hughes / The Canadian Press)

Need more stringent measures, say experts

In an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, the Quebec government has urged people to avoid all social gatherings, especially in private homes, for next month.

“The sharp increase in cases is mainly associated with community transmission of the virus,” Health Minister Christian Dubé wrote on Twitter on Sunday.

Tremblay said the virus was spreading uncontrollably and suggested the government consider taking more stringent measures to prevent the death toll from rising. Making masks compulsory for students inside the classroom is one of the measures it proposes.

“It is extremely important that people understand that we are heading straight for a second wave which will be at least as bad as the first, if not worse,” she said.

Oughton also said the government needs to do more. It is not enough to ask people to reduce their contacts.

“It’s a request, but it has no force. And therefore, I have a feeling that some people don’t see this as more than a suggestion or a recommendation, ”he said.

“At the moment, the message is not getting across with sufficient clarity. The government must take firm and clear action to explain to people why this is such a problem. “

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