To the relief of everyone, from politicians to business owners to medical malpractice lawyers, Ontario appears to have avoided the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Projections released in early April showed between 80,000 people (with prevention measures in place) and 300,000 people (no measures in place) contracting the illness. More recent modelling suggests infections will peak at a relatively modest 20,000. Intensive care units have not been overrun, and new hospital admissions are more or less stable.

Despite the virus’s relatively soft landing in Ontario, there are lessons to be learned from the province’s preparations. On April 2, the Globe and Mail reported on an unapproved strategy for handling an influx of COVID-19 patients. It laid out three scenarios in which patients would be triaged. In the first, hospitals hit 200 per cent capacity and life-saving treatments are denied to patients with a more than 80 per cent chance of death. In the second and third, treatment is denied to patients with a more than 50 per cent chance and more than 30 per cent chance of death.

The idea of triaging patients is almost unimaginable in Ontario, even amid a pandemic. But, as we have seen in virus hotspots like northern Italy and New York City, it isn’t farfetched. In fact, considering the overcrowded nature of Ontario’s emergency wards at the best of times, the COVID-19 strategy may be useful in the near future.

Medical malpractice lawyers and healthcare advocates have for years bemoaned Ontario’s hospital overcrowding issue. Overcrowding, as we have discussed before, has been linked to increased medical errors and poorer health outcomes. Staff become overworked and frustrated, patients are treated in ‘unconventional’ environments, infections bloom, and costly mistakes are made.

Some Ontario hospitals already operate at well over 100 per cent capacity. Many more are near that threshold. The provincial government has promised resources to address the issue, but as the population ages, its health problems will become more acute. More patients will need to be hospitalized for extended periods, and long-term care facilities – which continue to be blitzed by COVID-19, even while the virus crests in the general population – are unlikely to be able to provide relief.

In other words, although there is room for optimism in the fight against COVID-19, Ontario is facing another, slower-moving epidemic that may be even more harmful.

If you or a member of your family has been injured as a result of a medical error, contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Our experienced team of medical malpractice lawyers will happily review your claim and explain your legal options.

 

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Greg Neinstein