COVID’s Third Wave is Taking its Toll on Overburdened Emergency Rooms

Masked healthcare worker showing care

Written By:Steve Rastin, Senior Counsel and Lawyer   Ontario hospitals face their darkest hours during the third wave of the coronavirus pandemic as intensive care units (ICU) struggle to deal with an unrelenting influx of COVID-19 patients. The burst of optimism following news that coronavirus vaccinations were underway in Canada was blunted by the slow rollout, delayed shipments and, now, a new variant that is killing "faster and younger." According to CBC News, Ontario reported 3,670 more cases of COVID-19 on April 13, with the test positivity rate logged by labs topping 10 percent for the first time and total admissions to hospitals and ICUs reaching new heights. The Ministry of Health announced 1,822 people with COVID-19 in Ontario hospitals, with 626 being treated in intensive care units for virus-related illnesses and 422 requiring a ventilator, CBC reports. "The end is definitely in sight, but we're not there yet. This third wave is more serious, and we need to hang in there for another few weeks to make sure that we can flatten that curve, drop those numbers down again, to give a chance for vaccines to take hold," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters last week.  

Limited resources and lack of capacity

Indeed, I believe there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It may be dim but will grow brighter if we stick to safety protocols. As more people are vaccinated, we should finally get a handle on this virus and awaken from the nightmare. Most of us are hopeful that we will be a return to some level of normalcy by fall. For now, we are dealing with a situation never before seen in our hospitals. Ontario Health Minister Christine says the province is redeploying staff, postponing elective surgeries and transferring patients to create more capacity in hospitals, which have been instructed to ramp down all surgeries "except the ones that are absolutely life-and-death matters." It isn't just a question of beds. It's also a question of the resources — the medication, the ventilators, nurses, doctors, emergency department technicians, and support people. If have a hospital that's functioning at a 110 or 120 percent capacity just from COVID, even if the government creates 50 more beds, there's no way we're going to get the health care professionals needed to properly service patients. "We're sort of quickly approaching a cliff set, and we're seeing increasing numbers being admitted to ICUs," Dr. Bram Rochwerg, associate professor at McMaster University and critical care lead at the Juravinski Hospital in Hamilton, told CTV News. "[We’re] stretched in terms of capacity and places to put patients, as well as staff. I think the most alarming point is that despite the increasing numbers and the Band-Aid solutions that we're coming up with trying to care for more critically ill patients is that we have yet to see the plateau, even in provincial numbers.”  

Potential for misdiagnosis or medical mistakes

Hospitals are trying to pull people back into the system who had decided for whatever reason to leave. The call has also gone out to any health care professional who pitches in. But even if you find people willing to help, critical care is a complicated discipline of medicine. As one administrator points out, it can be compared to having a car. If no one knows how to drive, you are not going to get very far. With a system under such extreme stress, it is not beyond reason to believe that mistakes or misdiagnoses can occur. I'm not faulting healthcare professionals. They're doing the best they can, but they are facing extraordinary challenges.  

What happens to trauma victims?

Meanwhile, life goes on beyond COVID. Trauma cases involving accident victims did not disappear when the virus took hold. Last year at this time, there were undoubtedly fewer automobiles on the road, and fewer accidents reported. But that ghost town scenario no longer exists. We see injuries from car crashes. We see slip and fall accidents. And when people are seriously hurt, they need immediate medical attention. The concern is that if the ICU beds are so full from COVID, what happens to these trauma victims? We see reports of makeshift hospitals set up in parking lots, but will we have the medical staff to care for patients. Even when an accident victim is treated in a hospital, our system is based on sending people out for specialists for further care. But many times, specialists are only doing consultations by Zoom, and if you've been in a terrible accident and require a medical specialist, teleconferencing is a poor substitute. The present reality is grim, but we can all do our part. Seeking safe, alternative treatments for medical conditions can help ease the pressure on our overwhelmed healthcare system. Warmer weather has arrived, which means more people will be getting outside. But until this crisis has passed, perhaps we should all consider putting off an activity that we know may put us at risk for a few more months. Maybe that daredevil skydiving excursion doesn't need to happen right now.  

Tips to stay safe and healthy

To help you and your family stay safe and ease the pressure on an overwhelmed healthcare system, considering following these common-sense rules:

  • Remember to wear an approved mask and social distance
  • Wear a helmet when cycling
  • Drive at the appropriate speed; wear a seatbelt and ensure children are in the proper car seat
  • Use the proper footwear and safety equipment when using a lawnmower or gardening equipment such as trimmers or chainsaws
  • Take precautions with outdoor fires; avoid close contact with flames, keep an extinguisher nearby, never use gasoline to start a fire
  • Ensure backyard and playground equipment such as trampolines or swings are well maintained and properly installed
  • Wear a lifejacket while boating
  • Swim with a buddy, never leave a child unattended near a pool, spa, or open water

  There is no doubt we are all suffering from COVID fatigue, but we will get through this together. Gluckstein Personal Injury Lawyers has helped clients move forward after suffering a life-altering injury with dignity, respect, and trusted experience. If you have been injured, we are here to help. Please contact me at and arrange your free consultation.


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