Hospitals across Canada and the United States have experienced an alarming surge of respiratory viruses in infants, children and adults, primarily respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), influenza and COVID-19. Hospitals in both countries have been operating at or above capacity for several months due to the “forever COVID” policy overseen by the Trudeau Liberal government in Canada and the Biden administration in the United States.
The rapid spread of the XBB.1.5 omicron subvariant across Canada and the United States is overwhelming an already overstretched health care system. Longer waiting times in emergency rooms (ERs) will increase the risk of death and other serious health care outcomes due to a shortage of beds and staff and an increase in boarding time (the total time required for patients to be treated in the ER). Hospital workers are exhausted and suffering from moral injury and are leaving in large numbers, which will only exacerbate the shortage of health care workers.
According to a Canadian CBC News report, ER deaths in the province of Nova Scotia are at a six-year high; 558 people will die in ER in 2022, 505 in 2021 and 393 in 2020.
The most recent death was of a 37-year-old woman who sought medical treatment for excruciating abdominal pain at the Cumberland Regional Health Care Center in Amherst, Nova Scotia. The patient, Allison Holthoff, waited six hours in a wheelchair or lying on the floor in the waiting room before being brought into the exam room. Her husband, Gunter Holthoff, told CBC News that at one point he told medical staff that his wife was not feeling well, and thought she was dying, but there was no response or action. After more time passed, nurses prepared Allison for X-rays, but she went into cardiac arrest before the latter could be tested. He was resuscitated three times but later died in the intensive care unit.
The day before Allison Holthoff died, Charlene Snow, 67, died after returning home after a seven-hour wait in the ER at Cape Breton Regional Hospital. Snow had been ill for several days with severe jaw pain and flu-like symptoms before seeking treatment, but went unnoticed. According to Global News, Snow suffered a cardiac arrest and died an hour after leaving the hospital.
According to the Annual Accountability Report, there were a total of 536,666 visits to emergency departments (EDs) in Nova Scotia in 2021-2022, and 43,142 patients (8.0 per cent) who visited EDs during the same period went without being seen by staff (LWBS). an ED. The EDs with the largest numbers of LWBS patients are South Shore Regional (15.0 percent) and Cape Breton Regional (14.8 percent), the hospital where Charlene Snow sought medical care.
Dr. Kirk Magee, chief of emergency medicine for Halifax, Nova Scotia, recently told Global News that emergency care was “in crisis mode” amid a shortage of nurses, physicians and hospital beds and a growing volume of complicated patients. . needed. Shortages, primarily nursing staff, have forced ERs to close across Canada, putting more strain on an already collapsed health system.
In addition to the nursing shortage, there is a shortage of primary care physicians, which has increased the use of the ER for chronic medical problems. According to Nova Scotia Health, as of January 1, 2023, 129,321 Nova Scotians are on the family practice registry, representing 13 percent of the population seeking a family practice physician.
A similar situation is unfolding in ERs across the United States. Shortages of staff and beds and a rise in boarding are straining emergency departments across the country and contributing to longer wait times.
On October 14, 2022, 12-year-old Mea Tafoya was brought to Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque, New Mexico, after suffering a fractured skull from a fall at school. Maia waited 10 hours before being told by staff that she could not be adequately treated at Presbyterian Hospital and would need to be transferred to another hospital. He was transferred to the University of New Mexico Hospital where he underwent four surgeries, including amputation of his injured leg.
In another tragic incident, 23-year-old William “Billy” Miller died in the ER at Yale New Haven Hospital in Connecticut after being taken from what he believed was a white, fentanyl-laced drug. Powdery substance. The patient was given naloxone, a drug that reverses opioid overdoses by firefighters, and then transferred to the New Haven ER where she was designated a Level 2 patient, meaning staff reevaluated her every hour. It was necessary to do According to a press report, hospital staff did not examine him for seven hours and he was later found to be in complete cardiac arrest.
Decades of research has long demonstrated that overcrowding can lead to worse outcomes for patients receiving emergency treatment, and that overcrowding affects patients in other areas of the hospital as well.
In an article published last month in the journal healthcare researchResearchers from Penn State and the University of California, San Francisco, examined discharge records from hospitals across California between the end of October 2015 and 2017. They found that patients were 5.4 percent more likely to die from any cause throughout the hospital. When the emergency department of that hospital was the most crowded.
The researchers note that since the cause of death is not yet known, it is too early to say whether people are dying because of emergency room congestion. Still, the results show that when emergency rooms are full, more people die in hospitals.
Furthermore, since the data were collected in California, where the law regulates minimum staffing levels for nurses, the effect of ED overcrowding in other states is likely to be even greater. This data was also collected before the pandemic. One might assume that the overcrowded emergency department during the pandemic, and now due to the confluence of multiple respiratory viruses, has led to an even higher death rate for hospitalized patients.
An overlapping surge of multiple viruses spreading through the population could have been prevented. Several warnings were given by experts months ago but nothing was done to prepare.
The looming tragedy is the result of the “herd immunity” and “forever COVID” policy now being pursued by both the Biden administration and the Trudeau Liberal government, which has over the past year rejected all anti-COVID safeguards based on science. systematically terminated.
The capitalist policy of prioritizing corporate profit over every other social need has produced dire consequences for which the recent ED death and poor outcome is only one aspect. During the pandemic all public health measures have been subordinated to the profit interests of corporations, resulting in unnecessary loss of millions of lives.
Long wait times in emergency rooms and treatment delays during the current surge of respiratory viruses are a direct result of these criminal policies and stand as an indictment of the capitalist system and its brutal treatment of the working class, its young and most vulnerable members. Society.