'I'm really starting to worry' Climbing ICU admissions a real concern for health experts

With climbing ICU admissions and an embattled COVID-19 vaccine campaign, the Ontario Medical Association's past president believes the next month could be a bleak one.

Dr. Sohail Gandhi understands the initial focus on inoculating the most elderly. But with more younger people getting sick, the Stayner, Ont.-based doctor, thinks it may be time to rethink that strategy.

"Until we start getting the COVID vaccines to the family doctors who can identify the patients who are at highest risk, who are working in factories, who are in really congested, crowded housing situation — I'm really starting to worry about how well we're going to manage the rest of April."

Ontario ICU admissions are at a record high, with Simcoe County hospitals handling seriously ill local patients and transfers from the GTA. Gandhi says that could set up a 'nightmare scenario.'

"We're going to be in a situation where the resources just aren't there to look after our patients, and physicians are going to have to start making some very hard decisions about who gets treatment."

Gandhi appreciates why people may be fixated on the number of deaths caused by COVID-19 but says it obscures the difficult path ahead for many who survive the illness.

He shares the story of a patient in his early 50s who was in good health before testing positive. "He survived COVID, but now is on lifetime oxygen. He can barely walk about 10 feet without having to sit down and rest because the COVID has just damaged his lungs."

Gandhi says the man will be at elevated risk for heart attack and stroke over at least the next nine months.

"Even the people who survive are not necessarily out of the woods, and we need to recognize that there's a cohort there that also needs care and treatment."