Canada's health care workers brace for the painful blow of a punishing third wave

Original author: Paula Newton

Published: April 18, 2021


(CNN) For days now, as the Covid-19 case count mounted and hospital admissions surged, Canadians seemed dismayed and asked: How could this happen here, where most people dutifully followed public health guidelines?

But many of Canada's health care workers had warned that some provincial governments reopened too quickly after a difficult post-Christmas surge.

"So we're stuck where we have cases out of control, hospitals completely full, not enough vaccine supply available and months of difficult public health measures ahead of us," Dr. Michael Warner, director of critical care at the Michael Garron Hospital in Toronto, told CNN.

Provincial governments across the country are now reckoning with a damaging Covid-19 third wave that might imperil the universal health care system of which Canadians are so fiercely proud.

From coast to coast, across thousands of miles and hundreds of hospitals, many provinces are now anxiously watching the case count rise. That's happening as variants of concern spread a more contagious virus to younger Canadians and send more people in hospital.

And nowhere in Canada is the hospital situation as critical as it is in Ontario, the country's most populous province.

"The government didn't listen to scientists, they didn't listen to epidemiologists, they didn't listen to doctors other than their chief medical officer of health. And because they failed to listen to scientists, they thought they could negotiate themselves out of this virus. But the virus is too strong, the variant is a different disease," Warner said, before adding that his ICU was operating at 115% capacity on Friday.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford defended his actions Friday as he announced new restrictions, including extending a stay-at-home order until at least mid-May, prohibiting indoor and outdoor gatherings, and restricting non-essential travel in and out of the province.

At a news briefing Friday, Ford insisted he has always acted on the science, adding that in the case of recent rising critical care admissions, he drafted the stricter public health policies "the second" he found out.

"Whatever we put into place though, it's going to take time to take effect. So right now, the trajectories of Covid rises are really baked in, and I think the next two to three weeks for Ontario and Canada are going to be very, very, tough," said Dr. Fahad Razak, who treats coronavirus patients at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto.

On Saturday, Ontario again shattered fresh records for both hospital and ICU admissions. Modeling released by the province's expert advisory panel Friday detailed a dire snapshot of the crisis already unfolding in hospitals and how the situation is likely to get even worse. "Notice that our hospitals can no longer function normally -- they are bursting at their seams," said Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, Ontario's science advisory co-chair. "We're setting up field hospitals, and