VANCOUVER — Hospitals in several parts of Canada are straining under the weight of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, with Quebec hospitalizations reaching an all-time high on Sunday and Ontario's admissions to intensive care units surging past the 400 mark.
New Brunswick's hospitals also hovered near their highest levels since the pandemic began, with 79 people in hospital, one in five of whom are in intensive care.
Dr. Bob Bell, former CEO of the University Health Network and Ontario deputy health minister from 2014 to 2018, says Canada is in good company when it comes to seeing its health-care system tested by COVID-19.
Bell says every Western country dealing with Omicron has a strained hospital system right now, but Canada has a lower tolerance for measures like death than places like the United States so will pursue lockdowns and restrictions sooner.
Quebec hospital admissions leapt 140 on Sunday to 2,436, and the added pressure has prompted several hospitals across the province to delay surgeries and medical appointments.
Ontario reported 2,419 patients hospitalized due to the virus on Sunday, down from Saturday's count of nearly 2,600 -- though the province notes not all facilities share data over the weekend.
Bell warns that stressed hospitals can also be a symptom of inadequate "upstream" care like access to family doctors, home care and community care.
"The hospital is the canary in the coal mine in many ways for health system challenges," he said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 9, 2022.
The Canadian Press