Cost of treating COVID-19 patients in hospital 3 times more expensive than heart attack sufferers: study

The Canadian Institute for Health Information has determined the cost of caring for a patient with COVID-19 in hospital is roughly four times that of treatment for influenza and triple the cost of a heart attack.

The report looked at January 2020 through to March of this year, so it doesn't account for the hospital costs associated with Canada's third and fourth waves of the pandemic.

The average cost per hospitalization of a COVID-19 patient in Canada is estimated to be $23,000.

A kidney transplant is the only treatment the report found to be more costly at about $27,000 and those procedures involve a surgical team.

Admissions to intensive care units double to an average of $50,000 per COVID-19 patient, roughly double the cost of emergency room admission.

The estimated total cost of all COVID-19 hospital stays in Canada —excluding Quebec —is $1 billion.

The report found that one-in-five patients came through the emergency room and soon transferred to the ICU.

A Calgary emergency medicine doctor says ICU stays are expensive because of the number of highly trained staff, complex equipment and medical supplies required to keep people alive.

"I don't wish anyone to need the experience of the intensive care unit," said Dr. Raj Bhardwaj. "It's called intensive care for a reason."

He says public health measures and interventions could have prevented the number of cases that led to severe outcomes and the associated hospitalization costs.

"Really, that's a health care cost of not providing good public health care and if public health is doing a good job, none of these costs are accrued. None of these people get sick, none of these people die, none of these families are affected when public health does a good job."

He says vaccine uptake must increase in order to help alleviate the pressure on Alberta hospitals and slow the spread of the virus — in addition to continuing to test, trace and isolate for positive cases.

"Go get vaccinated. It works. It keeps you out of the ICU."