Healthcare workers on the alert as Omicron spurs increase cases
Healthcare workers across Canada, exhausted from two years of battling a pandemic, fear what the next wave of COVID-19 could bring.
The country is seeing a sharp rise in new infections, a large part of which are Omicron cases.
But COVID-19-related hospitalizations generally remain stable – for now.
According to Dr Gerald Evans, we will not be able to see the real impact of Omicron “until at least two or maybe three weeks after the increase in these cases”.
“And we’re just getting to this point right now,” he said. “There is unfortunately still time for us to somehow see this surge of cases, which could be related to Omicron, needing to come to the hospital for their care, but we haven’t seen it at this point.
Experts point to countries like Spain, where there has been a sharp increase in hospitalizations. But in South Africa, where scientists first identified the Omicron variant, hospitalizations are now declining rapidly.
Currently, Ontario’s positivity rate is 9.7%. It hasn’t been this high since May 3, when 889 people were in intensive care and 16 deaths were reported. At present, there are 164 patients in intensive care and no deaths were reported on Monday.
Uncertainty over whether Omicron will lead to more hospitalizations keeps healthcare workers on the lookout.
Add to that the vast majority of Canadian hospitals that are already full of Delta patients, and more are coming for treatment.
There has also been an increase in the number of people suffering from other health conditions like heart attacks and strokes.
And healthcare workers themselves are few and far between, exhausted, and fearful of what could happen.
Eram Chhogala, a trauma nurse, told CTV News she dreads this next wave.
“What’s going to happen next, is it going to be worse, is it going to be the same, what are we expecting?” ” she said. “And I think the other thing is, is our backup plan good enough for the next variant ramp up?”
At least one hospital in Toronto has canceled non-essential surgery, offering only emergency care – with more chances to follow.
Manitoba, where intensive care units are already full, receives half a dozen more nurses. But there are still some 2,200 positions to be filled.
Across Canada, healthcare workers are retiring or on stress leave, overwhelmed by two years of the pandemic.
“What scares me the most is that the staff will be at a point where those you need in intensive care units and other parts of the health care system will not be able to do their jobs,” Paul -Emile Cloutier, President and CEO of HealthCareCAN, told CTV News.
It is not yet clear whether or not Omicron will lead to a huge increase in hospitalizations. But hospital staff are still on the alert.