Health care services feeling the strain as COVID-19 cases rise in Cape Breton

While most of Nova Scotia’s confirmed COVID-19 cases are in the province’s Central zone, Cape Breton is also experiencing more cases than ever before, and it’s already having an effect on health care services.

On Thursday, 16 new cases were reported in the Eastern zone. Double-digit single day new case totals has become the norm this week in Cape Breton, after over a year of few COVID-19 cases.

There has been a steady of stream of Cape Bretoners lined up at Sydney’s Centre 200 for COVID-19 testing.

“Personally for me, I was part of that Membertou exposure, and that was a major wake up call for me,” says Sydney resident Brent Desveaux. “Prior to that, I had that ‘it couldn’t happen to me’ feeling. Since then it’s been scary.”

One month ago, the Eastern zone was reporting just four active cases and had seen 96 total cases since the pandemic began.

With 141 new cases reported between April 6 and May 6, the Eastern zone now has 100 active cases, the second most of the province’s four zones.

According to Nova Scotia Health, there are currently three people in hospital in the Eastern zone with COVID-19.

All surgeries that are not considered necessary have been cancelled.

“You have to keep in mind that on a good day, that ICU is usually full,” says Dr. Margaret Fraser, President of the Cape Breton Staff Association.

While there are currently no COVID patients in the ICU in Cape Breton, Fraser says she is worried that the health care system on the Island won’t be able to handle an influx of patients with the virus.

“On a bad day, there can be six, seven, eight, nine ICU patients housed in the Emergency Department, because there’s no room for them in the ICU. So our system before the pandemic was already over-stretched,” says Fraser.

Nova Scotia Health Minister Zach Churchill said Thursday that it is important Nova Scotians take the current situation seriously.

“We are making adjustments right now across the system, to be able to accommodate an influx of those dealing with severe illness,” said Churchill after Thursday’s N.S. Cabinet meeting.

A situation that many had hoped they wouldn’t be dealing with.