Canadians don’t need a “Great Reset” of society, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has described it, when we start to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
We do need to address some long-standing weaknesses in our health care system, which the pandemic has fully exposed.
One of those, reported in numerous Canadian and international studies, is a chronic shortage of hospital beds in many parts of the country, whether they’re acute care, long-term care or ICUs.
How is it possible, for example, that in Ontario, with a population of almost 14.6 million people, it only takes 150 COVID-19 patients in ICU beds before care of other hospital patients starts to break down, which, we’re told, becomes a full-blown crisis when the number reaches 350?
While it’s shocking, it’s not surprising.
Many hospitals function at well above their recommended patient loads in normal times, with widespread variations across the provinces.
Backed-up emergency rooms, hallway medicine and long wait times were familiar problems in Canadian health care, long before the start of this pandemic.
The cause is a shortage of chronic care beds, which leads to a shortage of acute care beds, which leads to hallway medicine and jammed emergency rooms.
Given that this has been an issue for decades, long before anyone had ever heard of COVID-19, it’s not useful for Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott to defend bed shortages caused by treating COVID-19 patients in Ontario, by saying if you want to see a real crisis go to Alberta.
Elliott herself has said that because of COVID-19 and the strain it’s putting on the hospital system, people have died waiting for so-called “elective” surgeries, unrelated to COVID-19.
In fact, “elective” surgery is a misleading term, because lengthy delays of such surgery often lead to premature deaths or added months and years of unnecessary pain.
One lesson the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us is that hospitals need to have a surplus capacity ofbeds in normal times, so they can cope with sudden surges in patient loads, whether it’s due to a pandemic or something else.
Yes, it will cost more money, making it vital that every dollar spent on health care is invested wisely.