Ontario could see medical shortages even if COVID-19 infection rate drops: study

A study by Toronto epidemiologists suggests that Canada’s largest province could run out of intensive care beds and ventilators by late April, even assuming a sharp drop in the current infection rate of COVID-19.

Researchers from the University of Toronto, University Health Network and Sunnybrook Hospital have released a model showing Ontario could run short of machines and space to ventilate very sick patients in just over five weeks.

In work led by Beate Sander, the Canada research chair in economics of infectious diseases, even a “conservative scenario” assuming a lower rate of infection than is currently occurring would lead to serious shortages.

That scenario assumes the average daily rate of infections over the 37 days would be 7.5 per cent, the rate Japan has experienced, compared with the 26 per cent daily rate that has been experienced recently.

It also assumes that hospitals would succeed in holding 25 per cent of the province’s 2,053 existing intensive care beds for COVID-19 patients, though most experts say typically 85 to 90 per cent of the beds are occupied by patients with other illnesses.

Sander said in an interview she hopes the research leads to “informed decision-making” on public health measures.

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