Quebec health minister says situation critical as COVID hospitalizations top 1,000

As Quebec’s COVID-19 situation continues to go steeply downhill, Health Minister Christian Dubé says people must follow health restrictions over the holidays or hospitals will be overrun in January. 

“We have had to prepare beds for COVID patients in non-traditional locations because we lack beds in hospitals,” Dubé announced Friday.

One of those sites, in Quebec City, is in a local hotel, where guest rooms and reception rooms have been commandeered.

There are now 1,011 people in hospital because of COVID-19 across the province and 141 of them are in intensive care — that’s nearly half of the 2,164 beds reserved for those infected with the disease.

And 10 hospitals provincewide have reached a “critical” stage, the health minister said.

Those hospitals are:

  • Chicoutimi Hospital.
  • Hôpital de l’Enfant-, CHU de Québec–Université Laval.
  • CHAUR de Trois-Rivières.
  • Hôpital Pierre-Boucher.
  • Hôpital Anna-Laberge.
  • Lakeshore General Hospital.
  • Verdun Hospital.
  • Hull Hospital.
  • Quebec City Heart and Lung Institute.
  • CHU Sherbrooke.

It’s reached the point where these 10 hospitals may soon need to further reduce other medical services if the situation doesn’t stabilize, Dubé said.

The INESSS research institute’s latest modelling, released Friday, shows hospitalizations have increased by half in the last three weeks and are projected to rise by another 16 per cent this coming week.

It also says the situation outside Greater Montreal is showing particularly worrisome signs and could reach capacity in three weeks.

“Given nearly two-thirds of the regular beds designated for COVID-19 patients are occupied, we can’t rule out certain hospitals surpassing their planned [maximum] limits,” the INESSS said in a release.

Dubé begged Quebecers to follow health restrictions over the holidays in order to prevent a flood of new patients in January.

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He said not only is space running out, but medical staff are being worn down after being on the front lines since the spring.

“Our health-care network and our staff cannot afford a surge in cases after the holidays,” Dubé said.

“If we continue like this, we will exceed our capacity.”

The health minister said the uptick in alcohol sales at provincial liquor stores is not a good sign, as people should not be hosting or attending parties.

“Those who bought their alcohol to go to parties, please keep it for later,” Dubé said. The health minister said people should not be embarrassed to call others out for shrugging off health restrictions.

He also called on people to avoid emergency rooms and clinics whenever possible to lighten the strain on hospitals. 

Medical services delayed as cases climb

If the situation continues to worsen, the health-care network will “hit a wall” and crucial medical services will be delayed, Dubé said.

Earlier this month, officials announced some non-essential medical services, including surgeries, would be postponed due to the strain on the health-care system. As it stands, Quebec has postponed 50 per cent of surgeries.

Earlier this week, Sonia Bélanger, head of the CIUSSS du Centre-Sud-de-l’Île-de-Montréal, said hospitalizations are on the rise in the city. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Quebec has seen a 60 per cent rise in cases over the last three weeks — especially in the Montreal region, the health ministry said in a Friday statement.

Infectious diseases specialist calls for lockdown

Dr. Donald Vinh, an infectious diseases specialist at the McGill University Health Centre who is also a science advisor for the federal COVID-19 therapeutics task force, is calling for a complete lockdown of the province like during the spring to avoid disaster.

Every medical service is at risk of being put on hold if the situation continues as is, he explained.

“Others services in the hospitals have to be ramped down,” Vinh said.

“Every single personnel and all the resources of hospitals have to be redirected to in-hospital care of COVID patients.”

This comes at a cost to non-COVID conditions, be it treating a heart attack victim or processing routine tests, he said.

“It is very clear that a strict restriction of social activities is needed to prevent community transmission, or to at least dampen or decrease community transmission,” Vinh said.

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