'Extraordinary measures,' national approach needed to fight COVID-19 crisis: CMA
TORONTO -- The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is calling for “extraordinary measures” to be implemented to address the surge of COVID-19 cases across several provinces.
In a release Friday, the organization said it was issuing an “urgent call for unprecedented measures to address the state of crisis unfolding in several provinces,” including marshalling national resources, applying restrictive public health measures and prioritizing national collaboration to save lives.
“As the third wave of the pandemic wreaks havoc on the healthcare and public health systems, healthcare providers, and patients, we are at a critical juncture where a truly national approach to combatting COVID-19 will make the difference between more or fewer lives saved,” said Dr. Ann Collins, president of the CMA in the release. “This country must come together to help support provinces most severely impacted.”
Ontario and B.C. have seen a continuous rise of COVID-19 cases with variants of concern resulting in more hospitalizations and intensive care units at max capacity.
On Thursday, Canada set a new single-day record with 9,561 COVID-19 cases.
The CMA is calling on the federal government to “consider re-prioritization of its vaccine distribution strategy” to focus on areas in urgent need rather than the “per-capita approach” currently implemented. The organization also called for “an enhanced form of paid sick leave,” calling current programs inadequate to allow workers to stay at home.
While many hospitals in Canada are approaching full capacity, calls are growing for additional nurses and doctors to help ease some of the stress on the health-care system.
“It's awful right now. It’s awful in the community, and it's even worse in the hospitals right now. The people that we're seeing that are coming in are very, very, sick,” Dr. Dale Kalina, infectious disease physician at Joseph Brant Hospital in Burlington, Ont. told CTV National News.
“As a result we're now seeing a ship that's possibly sinking,” he added.
According to government officials, Canada will need an additional 620 health-care workers, including 500 nurses and 100 respiratory therapists, to help manage patient loads.
In a press conference on Friday, the Ontario government reiterated a promise to recruit more retired and graduating nurses to help ease the load on hospital staff, however, doctors worry it may be too late.
“You cannot just redeploy people to an ICU. It doesn't work that way, critical care nurses and respiratory therapists and physicians are so difficult to train that that can't happen overnight,” said emergency room physician Dr. David Carr.
Nurses in Ontario also say their limits are being tested as they are working longer hours in busier facilities. Birgit Umaigba is a critical care nurse and says she is overwhelmed.
“It's quite busy, busy enough for us to be running around with every single time. It's just challenging to, you know, be in this situation right now,” she said.
Umaigba said that beyond having to take care of her kids and hospital patients, she is forgetting to take care of herself.
“Sometimes you’re postponing when you actually have to go to the washroom or to go pee or just little things like drinking water. I’m constantly dehydrated, there’s headaches, you know, it's a stressful situation to be in right now,” she said.
At a press briefing Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the per-capita distribution of vaccines was a result of “ongoing conversations” with provinces, but said the government was “happy to continue to work with provinces to adjust as [they] see necessary.”
Trudeau said the federal government is “extremely preoccupied” with the situation in Ontario and reiterated that Ottawa looks forward to “delivering any and all supports” the province needs, citing “discussions about health-care resources from other provinces turning towards Ontario” if needed.
The CMA highlighted that “better communication and supports are necessary for people in Canada to adhere to public health measures and minimize risks,” the release states.
The health organization said the country is at a “critical juncture,” and that health-care workers are “pleading for this unprecedented level of response as the crisis takes hold in our hospitals and in our communities.”
With a file from CTV's medical specialist Avis Favaro and CTV National News producer Elizabeth St. Philip