As of December 26, 2020, the entire province of Ontario, Canada was placed under lockdown in a bid to control rising numbers of COVID-19 infections, and bring case numbers down. The lockdown is scheduled to end on January 23, 2021 and will be the second major lockdown that has been implemented since the pandemic started in mid-March of 2020.
As of January 3, 2021, there were 3,363 new cases recorded with 95 deaths occurring over the space of two previous days.
According to a report filed by cp24.com (City Pulse News) on that same day, there were 322 people in intensive care units all across Ontario, and 220 on ventilators. There are 2,000 ICU beds in Ontario, so the current numbers suggest that the hospitals in Ontario are far from being overwhelmed.
However, the cp24.com article goes on to say “ ‘ Hospitals continue to cope with an overwhelming number of COVID-19 patients while trying to effectively treat all patients in the health-care system.’ “
In 1975, Ontario had 40,000 hospital beds. Today, it has just 20,000. The change is partly due to better treatments, drugs and surgical procedures than were available 46 years ago. These improvements have meant that patients spend less time in hospital and are discharged more quickly. Hence fewer beds are needed.
However, the change in beds is also explained by successive decades of cuts to the health care system by various Liberal and Conservative provincial governments.
These same governments enacted the cuts to deal with continuously growing debts and deficits, leaving the province without sufficient reserve capacity to handle mass casualty incidents like pandemics. Other provinces have exhibited similar responses to fiscal pressures.
In addition, the cuts have resulted in delaying or rationing care; stories of patients waiting in pain for hip replacement surgeries for months or even years are legion. And not a few patients have died for lack of timely access to care. Shortages of medical professionals are common, and cuts to nursing staff are almost an annual occurence.
Experts from various quarters had warned for years that a pandemic was coming. Yet the various provincial governments in Canada and even the federal government ignored these warnings in favour of dealing with financial pressures ultimately caused by choosing to fund government operations through deficit financing. In turn, the deficits constitute debts owed to private banks with interest accruing.
Up until 1974, the government of Canada self-financed its operations by printing money and backing it up with gold reserves. As a result, Canada’s health care system was well funded and capable of coping with any contingency. And debts and deficits were small.
Had these various levels of government built in excess capacity in the public health care system, there might have been less need for extensive, draconian lockdowns and other restrictions aimed at protecting the health care system from being overwhelmed with COVID cases.
In this respect, neither Ontario nor Canada are alone. Many Western governments have failed to invest properly in their health care systems, with correspondingly similar consequences. The National Health Service (NHS) in the UK runs a publicly-funded health care system, and it has problems that are virtually identical to the problems facing Canada’s health care system. It’s worth noting that when Canada’s public health care system was set up in the very early 1960s, it was modelled on the NHS. Even today, Canadian hospitals are run in a way that is not dissimilar to how UK hospitals are operated.
Indeed, this is the elephant in the room that no one really wants to look at. People in all of Canada’s provinces have had to put up with significant restrictions on their personal freedoms to protect the health care system from being overwhelmed. It’s the reason why Ontario, despite having 2,000 ICU beds, cannot cope with more than 350 COVID cases in ICU without collapsing.
Article written by HuronZephyr