COVID-19: We need a real way out of the crisis

Caregivers repositioned a COVID-19 patient at a Toronto hospital last April. (Photo: Getty Images)

to analyze. The epidemic, which promises to be longer than expected due to the fourth wave and the delta variable, is above all a question of being able to treat people in hospitals. If these capabilities are unlimited, the doubly vaccinated population can live normally, with endemic coronavirus, but under control.

Of course, these recovery capabilities are limited. So governments must make their own decisions. This is why many countries have far more hospital beds per 1,000 inhabitants than Canada.

In 2020, according to the latest data from Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Canada has 2.5 hospital beds per 1,000 population, about the same level as the United States (2.8), as can be seen in this graph.

Number of hospital beds per 1000 residents. Canada is represented by the red bar to the left of the graph. (Source: OECD)

On the other hand, it is significantly lower than Japan (12.8), South Korea (12.4%), not to mention Germany (7.9%), France (5.8) and Italy (3.2). In fact, in the G7, only the UK has slightly fewer beds per 1,000 people than Canada at 2.4.

This hospital capacity is a major issue.

It could somehow relate to supply versus demand in terms of operations management, as demand in this case is shaped by people with COVID-19 who must be hospitalized.

All business leaders or operations managers ask themselves the question, regardless of their field of work: Do I have the right capacity to meet the demand?

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Governments should think more about managing operations.

Address supply, not just demand

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Quebec government, for example, has focused on reducing the demand for Medicare – the famous curve of new cases that had to be reduced at all costs.

How do? First with population confinement and strict hygiene measures (wearing a mask, social distancing, etc.) and now with an effective vaccination campaign that the whole world would envy.

On August 26, 69.6% of Quebecers were adequately vaccinated (two doses), while that level reached 79.5% among those aged 12 and over, according to data fromNational Institute of Public Health of Quebec (INSPQ).

Imagine what it would be like if Quebec were also among the world leaders in terms of capacity to deliver medical care, with a number of hospital beds equal to or greater than those of, say, Germany.

We probably won’t have to discuss whether or not employees should go back to work in city centers.

Why do we ask ourselves this question since the beginning of the fourth wave?

Because the authorities fear once again that our health system is saturated, due to the insufficient supply of medical care to adequately meet the growing demand for medical care.

Of course, we cannot increase the capacity of our health system overnight, because we also need more staff, from nurses to doctors to support staff.

Target real budget priorities

There should also be funds in the budget. Since the budgetary resources of the state are limited, this will require carving out other places, in projects, programs and activities that are less strategic in the public interest.

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Two things are fundamentally vital in society, education and health, not to mention much-needed quality and infrastructure.

If we believe it is important to live in a society that is resilient and able to withstand shocks without having to shut down its economy while treating its residents, then we must quickly begin to increase the capacity of our health system.

This is called strategic planning.

This planning will allow us to get out of this crisis more quickly, and better prepare for the next.

Because there will be others.

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