Omicron Exposes a Weakness in Canadian Government Run Health Care
As omicron sweeps across the globe, the U.S. and Canada are experiencing dramatically different responses. The U.S. seems to be largely open for business, while Canada’s biggest provinces are shutting down. Why the difference?
The U.S. health care system, which prioritizes free markets, provides more hospital beds per capita than the government-dominated Canadian system. The difference is stark: New York State has 34,869 ICU beds while Ontario has a mere 2,434 staffed ICU beds. Even accounting New York’s larger population, it is as 10 times as many ICU beds.
The consequences of this are being felt throughout the Canadian economy. In Ontario, restaurants, concert halls and gyms are closed. Quebec has a 10 p.m. curfew and has banned in-person church services. British Columbia has suspended indoor weddings and funerals.
The situation is especially stark in Ontario, placing the province’s health care system in a precarious position as this new wave of Covid-19 arrives. “The math isn’t on our side,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said recently as he announced new school and business closures in an attempt to alleviate pressure on the province’s hospitals. Local officials across the country have begun to call for a national conversation on inadequate health care capacity and staffing.
The biggest bottleneck in the system is the staffing required by acute care, particularly in the emergency departments and intensive care units. The personnel crunch has become extreme during Covid waves, when large numbers of staff are forced to isolate at home because of infection or exposure.
“Of course, hospital capacity is only one way to measure the success of a health system,” comments Gino Stirpe, VP of VUMI® Canada. “Still, the pandemic has exposed a trade-off that Canada makes with its universal system: Its hospitals are less capable of handling a patient surge. This is why we’re seeing a surge in the numbers of Canadians seeking to expand their health care options locally and worldwide. Our Prestige VIP plan offers Canadians a smart option to protect their families’ health.”
Sources: Bloomberg: “U.S. is Open as Canada Shuts Down,” by Brian Platt and Kevin Orland, January 6, 2022