Second wave of COVID-19 in Quebec: Number of free hospital beds appears sufficient for now

An empty hospital bed. (File photo)

The number of beds cleared for COVID-19 patients at the start of the second wave appears to be sufficient to meet demand at least for the coming month, according to Quebec’s institute of excellence in health and social services (INESSS). 

In a study made public on Wednesday, INESSS said the risk of being hospitalized after contracting COVID-19 is three times lower in September than it was in the spring, at the height of the wave.

In three months, the risk fell from 13 per cent to 3.8 per cent.

The drop in hospitalizations is attributable to the fact that the disease is transmitting between younger people this time around – unlike the situation in the spring, when the disease struck the province’s long-term care homes.

INESSS said hospital capacity shouldn’t be as much of a concern, at least over the next four weeks, according to the prediction model used by the researchers.

During the first wave of spring, the pandemic put significant pressure on the hospital network. The government had relieved some 8,000 beds to accommodate patients who contracted the disease - which ended up being more than what was necessary. The offloading had forced the postponement of thousands of surgeries.

This time, the government has freed some 2,000 beds, as they predict there will be less of a strain on the network. That’s what the INESSS study conducted with McGill University showed.

Its goal was to assess the needs for hospital beds – comparing the evolution of the pandemic in the spring with the start of the second wave in September.

In the short term, for all of Quebec – despite the daily increase in the number of cases – there is no expected disruption of services if the Institute's projections prove to be true, according to Dr. Luc Boileau, President and CEO of INESSS.

The study was conducted by Mike Benigeri of INESSS as well as Dr. David Buckeridge and Mathieu Maheu-Giroux of McGill University.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 23, 2020.

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