Delayed or missed health care may have led to thousands of non-COVID-19 related deaths during pandemic: report
Health-care delays and missed treatments during the pandemic may have contributed to more than 4,000 excess deaths in Canada between August and December 2020, according to a new report commissioned by the Canadian Medical Association.
The report released earlier this week noted the number of excess deaths not related to COVID-19 in 2020 was greater than can be explained by the virus alone, peaking in September 2020 at five per cent more than the expected mortality rate for a normal year. The association noted excess deaths can also be attributed to other causes, including accidents and natural disasters.
Association president Dr. Katharine Smart said the group has seen a broad impact across the system when it comes to people being able to access acute care for non-COVID-related issues.
“(We’ve seen) many cancelled surgeries, many cancelled procedures, patients reluctant to go to the hospital for fear of COVID, or maybe worrying that their problem wasn’t significant enough, presenting late in the course of an acute illness when it was too late to actually be able to reverse the course of what was happening,” Smart said. “So, all of these things have had really significant impacts in terms of people’s survival outside of COVID itself.”
The report also found self-reported mental health challenges increased, as well as emergency department visits and hospitalizations for substance use disorders.
Family physician Dr. Anna Wolak said she has also noticed more people seeking help when it comes to mental health.
"The biggest thing that I and other family doctors in B.C. have been seeing is a rise of mental health concerns," she said. "But accessing care, and for us to be able to find people to refer to, that’s gotten significantly harder. The resources just aren’t there, or if they are there, they’re stretched so thin."
The report also conducted an estimate of the accumulated backlog for eight different surgical and medical procedures from April 2020 to June 2021. It found the number of time lost to perform these procedures ranged from 46 days for breast cancer surgery, to 64 days for a CT scan, and up to 118 days for a hip replacement.
This week, the federal government said there are an estimated 780,000 delayed surgeries across Canada.
Speaking from Victoria, Beth Campbell Duke said her husband needed hernia repair surgery in December 2019, following another procedure stemming from injuries he had suffered in a car accident.
“And then, of course, COVID hit,” she said. “I don’t know what the normal wait time for hernia repair surgery is, but for us, it took a year. So it was December 2020 when we got the paperwork from the surgeon.”
She said he finally had the operation done in February of this year, at Vancouver General Hospital, as he is also a lung transplant recipient.
“He’s a complex patient,” Campbell Duke said, and added the year of waiting was hard.
“It has an impact on your mobility as well.”
The association estimated at least $1.3 billion in additional funding would be needed to return wait times to pre-pandemic levels.
Dr. Wolak said she has also heard of patients who have had surgeries postponed.
"Even though something is not immediately life-threatening to somebody, any prolonged delay could affect at least quality of life, if not have a potential to eventually lead to a later diagnosis or something that would be harder to recover from," she said, and added there have also been delays in receiving screening results from Pap tests, due to a backlog. "For a while we were looking at about four to six months, when we were used to four to six weeks."
Dr. Smart said the report shows how health-care systems are overwhelmed.
“When you have the combination of under-funding, and then under-resourced in terms of people, you end up with a system that’s very stressed, and it’s very hard then to ramp that system up when you’re facing an acute crisis like COVID,” she said. “We really need to look at how we can better retain the health work force we have, and at the same time, we need human health resource planning to better understand for the future the number of people we need to recruit into the health professions so that we don’t end up in this situation again.”
Campbell Duke said her husband is doing well now, but they have seen first-hand the strain the system is under.
“Things were stretched ... beforehand, and it’s far worse now. I honestly don’t know how we still have a system,” she said. “Kudos to every health-care worker who shows up to work under the conditions that they’re under ... It’s surviving solely on the goodwill of the frontline professionals who are showing up every day.”
The number of in-person visits for chronic disease assessments remained below 2019 levels at the beginning of this year according to the report, and ranged from 60 per cent lower for patients with hypertensive heart disease to 87 per cent lower for patients with diabetes. While the report also referenced data from Ontario pointing to an increase in virtual care services, it noted “virtual visits are not always a good substitute for in-person care.”
The report found the number of home-care assessments, which help determine if someone may need to enter long-term care, also dropped in the early days of the pandemic, with 60,000 fewer full assessments being conducted in B.C., Alberta, Ontario, and Newfoundland and Labrador between March and June 2020, as compared to the same time period in 2019. By June 2020, screening assessments were back at March 2020 levels, but full assessments remained 60 per cent below February 2020 rates.
The report also said the number of completed cancer screenings have not recovered to pre-pandemic levels, and referred to data from Ontario which showed while screening services have resumed, they had not returned to normal as of December 2020, with estimated backlogs in the hundreds of thousands for Pap tests, mammograms, and fecal tests.
Earlier this year, BC Cancer reported rates of cancer screening and new diagnoses both took a hit in the province, with the agency seeing about a 20 per cent decrease in new cases in the initial state of the pandemic.
Though the numbers had risen again, they had not reached pre-pandemic levels as of February of this year. In an emailed statement, BC Cancer said its mammography screening centres are now back to 100 per cent of pre-COVID capacity, but they did not expect to have an updated number on overall new diagnoses for 2021 until spring of next year.
Dr. Wolak said one thing people can do to try and help is follow public health measures, including mask-wearing and getting vaccinated against COVID-19.
"Basically so that we don't overwhelm the hospitals with COVID-related things so that other things can just continue flowing through," she said. 'We need to make sure that we're not letting our guards down too soon...we're just at such a precipice now that any little thing could kind of tip us over the edge."
Vancouver Top Stories
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
Trudeau decries 'fringe' views of some in trucker convoy, as police prepare for its arrival in Ottawa
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is decrying the 'fringe' views among some of those who are supporting the trucker convoy making its way to Parliament Hill to protest COVID-19 vaccine mandates and other policies they feel infringe on their freedoms.
Indian police have detained six people in a crackdown on illegal immigration after four Indians were found frozen to death near the border between Canada and the U.S. last week, officials said on Thursday.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Wednesday the extension of Operation UNIFIER for three years, and the deployment of 60 more troops to Ukraine in the coming days.
CTV News in Ukraine | 'If I'm called, I will go': Ukrainian reservist and former Voice contestant ready to fight Russian threat
CTV's Omar Sachedina speaks to a Ukrainian reservist and former contestant on Ukraine's version of 'The Voice' about the looming threat of war with Russia.
Crushing poverty is forcing displaced people in Afghanistan to make some very desperate choices, including selling organs or even their own girls into marriage to adult men.
'So many angry people': Experts say online conversation around trucker convoy veering into dangerous territory
As a growing group of truckers and supporters make their way to Ottawa in a protest against vaccine mandates, experts say the rhetoric online concerning the convoy is getting increasingly worrisome.
The Public Health Agency of Canada says it has detected more than 50 cases of a new Omicron subvariant known as BA.2. The subvariant is widely considered 'stealthier' than the original version of Omicron because some of its genetic traits make it harder to detect.
From the deadly crushing of Beijing's 1989 pro-democracy protests to the suppression of Hong Kong's opposition four decades later, China's Communist Party has demonstrated a determination and ability to stay in power that is seemingly impervious to Western criticism and sanctions.
Homicide investigators have been called to a Richmond, B.C., duplex after a shooting that left four people dead.
Five deaths related to COVID-19 were confirmed in the Vancouver Island region Wednesday, according to the B.C. Ministry of Health.
British Columbia's forest watchdog has identified four key areas where the management of forestry practices can negatively affect water and outlines potential opportunities for the province to improve regulations.
The British Columbia government says it will distribute up to 250,000 rapid COVID-19 antigen tests to provincially funded child-care providers.
Tuesday’s report of 1,377 COVID-19 patients in hospital was revised to a pandemic-high 1,443 on Wednesday.
'People are fed up': convoy of trucks converges on Ottawa as police prepare for thousands on Parliament Hill
A convoy of hundreds of fed-up Canadian truckers are driving cross-country, heading for the nation’s capital to deliver a message that's raising millions of dollars from donors around the world.
Work is underway converting a vacant Seventh Avenue Calgary office tower into 82 units of affordable and specialized housing.
Tuesday’s report of 1,377 COVID-19 patients in hospital was revised to a pandemic-high 1,443 on Wednesday.
A junior hockey player in Stony Plain, Alta., has been suspended for eight games after he went into the stands to fight a fan, but his coach says he was defending his mom at the time.
Two events in as many weeks in which Alberta corrections officers fired their weapons is evidence staffing shortages are endangering inmates and staff alike, say sources connected to the prison.
A family is breathing a sigh of relief after a terrifying fire at an apartment in Etobicoke forced a mother to break a second-floor window to save her 10-month-old daughter.
An Ontario woman who says she was offered a free doorbell by a salesperson said she wishes she didn't then sign a 15-year contract for a furnace that will cost her $12,748.
Drivers are being warned to expect significant traffic delays on major highways from Thursday to Saturday as the 'Freedom Convoy' of truckers enters Ontario.
Three COVID-19 patients who were unvaccinated or partially vaccinated have received double lung transplants at a Montreal hospital after their lungs were irreversibly damaged by the disease. One patient was a 49-year-old mother of five.
Since the start of the pandemic, Quebec has issued tickets totaling more than $45 million for public health violations, but only a fraction of them have actually been paid so far, according to data provided to CTV News.
'A terrifying experience’: Montreal mother shares ordeal as ICU sees increase of children admitted with COVID-19 in fifth wave
The medical director at the PICU in the Montreal Children’s Hospital says it is seeing more children get sick with COVID and be sick enough to come to the ICU.
Manitoba's top doctor says hospitalization rates remain high but are stable – though it is too early to tell where the province is in the pandemic's current wave.
A U.S. border patrol agent says a group of people from India attempting to cross the Canada-U.S. border faced blizzard conditions and freezing temperatures during an 11-hour-long trek that left four people dead.
Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief public health officer said the province is continuing to see a significant amount of spread of COVID-19.
Nathaniel Carrier has pleaded guilty to first degree murder in connection to the death of his son and second degree murder in connection to the deaths of his parents.
Saskatchewan reported 1,194 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, along with six more deaths, however active cases are down again.
A popular Riversdale restaurant says it's putting a "pause" on its operations.
Saskatchewan’s premier is hinting some COVID-19 restrictions could soon be lifted, saying current measures may have run their course.
Whether its memories of attending them, or the recent discoveries of unmarked graves at the sites of former residential schools, many people have been mentally strained by the former schools.
Sylvester Ukabam, a former Regina doctor accused of sexually assaulting five female patients, continued to deny allegations made against him from the witness stand on Wednesday morning.
Premier Tim Houston said Nova Scotia is extending its current provincewide COVID-19 public health restrictions until Feb. 14 in an attempt to limit the spread of the virus.
An area of low pressure originating off the coastline of Florida will merge with a cold front on Friday. The resulting storm will rapidly strengthen into a nor’easter, which will move north to impact the Maritimes Saturday into Sunday.
The Halifax Regional Police are on the scene of a sudden death at a hotel in the city.
Matt and Tim Devereaux are sending three of their transports to Ottawa this weekend to protest mandatory vaccines for truckers crossing the border.
Dash-camera footage shows a collision happening as a fire truck approaches: emergency responders offer advice.
London could start losing ground in its efforts to alleviate the housing crisis unless City Hall intervenes.
Sault Ste. Marie's Group Health Centre has been granted an extension by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario for its annual Big Wish Lottery.
While the region is not out of the woods with regard to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, Algoma's medical officer of health says there is reason for optimism.
In the next few months, the Timmins Youth Wellness Hub will be getting ready to open up its new permanent location.
All Region of Waterloo vaccination clinics will offer walk-ins for all eligible residents, starting Jan. 31.
Officials reported four new deaths related to COVID-19 on Wednesday, along with a dip in hospitalizations.
'There are some calls that stick with you': A dramatic increase in mental health disability claims amongst first responders
First responders, like paramedics, firefighters, and police officers say they often deal with mental health challenges.