Virus blamed for ‘collateral damage’
TORONTO • An Ontario hospital network has estimated that 35 people may have died during the COVID-19 pandemic because their cardiac surgeries weren’t performed, Health Minister Christine Elliott said Tuesday.
The modelling released by Toronto’s University Health Network looked at historical data to provide an estimate of how people scheduled for cardiac procedures may have been affected by pandemic planning.
“Compared to the number of potential deaths of COVID-19 patients due to resource depletion under the worst case pandemic epidemiology scenarios, there was only a modest consequence in terms of wait- list morbidity and mortality, at least in the short term for pausing cardiac procedures,” the report found.
Future research should determine the point at which foregoing procedures for cardiac patients in favour of COVID-19 patients results in more cardiac deaths than COVID-19 deaths.
Thousands of surgeries were postponed or cancelled in order to ensure enough acute and critical capacity in Ontario hospitals for a possible COVID-19 surge.
“I don’t want to call it collateral damage because they are deaths and that is very concerning and sad to all of us, but we were required to make decisions,” Elliott said.
“Because of the space that was created in our hospitals and the decisions that were made to make sure that we had enough acute care and critical care beds and ventilators available for people with COVID-19 … thousands of lives were saved.”
The province’s Financial Accountability Office estimated Tuesday that between March 15 and April 22, up to 52,700 procedures were cancelled or avoided.
That freed up 6,849 acute care beds and 585 critical care beds, the FAO said.
Up to 12,200 more procedures are delayed every week of the pandemic.