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Quebec unprepared for coronavirus outbreak, says Montrealer back from China

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“It would be a miracle if the virus didn’t start spreading in Canada,” said the woman, who decided to quarantine herself upon arrival back in Montreal on Jan. 28.

A Montreal woman who returned recently from China says Quebec’s health-care system is woefully unprepared to deal with a coronavirus outbreak, and she criticized what she called the province’s slow and lax response to the global public health emergency.

The 50-year-old woman, who immigrated to Quebec more than two decades ago, visited her family for the Chinese New Year but cut short her trip to Tianjin, a city south of Beijing, after the 2019-nCoV virus started spreading through China last month.

“It would be a miracle if the virus didn’t start spreading in Canada,” said the woman, who decided to quarantine herself upon arrival in Montreal on Jan. 28 — nine days before Quebec’s top public health officer urged people returning from Hubei province to isolate themselves at home.

The woman, who agreed to be interviewed on condition of anonymity for fear of a public backlash, had visited relatives far from mainland Hubei, the epicentre of the coronavirus epidemic, where almost 32,000 people have been infected and nearly 1,000 have died.

Still, she contacted the Montreal Gazette in the hope that authorities adopt a more vigilant approach to the coronavirus. On Feb. 3, she wrote to Health Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier François Legault to express her concerns.

She urged the prime minister to follow the travel restrictions the United States adopted on that same date barring entry to foreign nationals from China.

“Canada should follow the example of many other countries to better protect its people and to prevent further spreading of the virus around the globe by refusing all non-Canadian visitors who were recently in China,” she said, quoting from her letter.

“Prevention is the most efficient and easiest way to avoid any potential catastrophe before it is too late.”

In 2003, the woman’s husband returned from a trip to China during the SARS epidemic. Even back then, she recalled, her husband chose to stay at home in their Montreal apartment for two weeks — even though he didn’t have any symptoms — while she and their children lodged temporarily with relatives.

“The Quebec and Canadian governments haven’t learned anything from SARS,” the woman said, noting that Canada only decided to impose a two-week quarantine for Canadians returning from Hubei days after the U.S., Australia and the United Kingdom did so.

On Monday, the U.K. government declared the coronavirus “a serious and imminent threat to public health,” outlining sweeping new powers allowing the health secretary to force people into mandatory isolation if they present a risk of spreading the disease. The British announcement followed the news that the number of people in the U.K. with the respiratory illness doubled to eight, including two new cases involving health-care workers.

To date, Canada has reported seven coronavirus cases — four in British Columbia and three in Ontario — the same as last week.

Addressing reporters on Monday, Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, reiterated there are no plans to adopt a U.S.-style travel ban from China.

“Of course we will be evaluating all these measures on an ongoing basis, but right now we believe (the existing measures have struck) the right balance in protecting the health of Canadians,” Tam said.

Officials with the Prime Minister’s Office and Legault’s office were not immediately available for comment. On Friday, Health Minister Danielle McCann announced Quebec has selected four hospitals as potential coronavirus treatment centres.

But the woman countered that Quebec’s hospitals and ERs are already so overburdened, it would probably be impossible for them to deal with the sudden pressures of a coronavirus outbreak.

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Fatal COVID-19 outbreak over at Edmonton hospital; 84 new cases in Alberta

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EDMONTON — The Misericordia Community Hospital in Edmonton has started a phased reopening following a COVID-19 outbreak linked to 58 cases, including 11 patient deaths.

The hospital was closed to new patients on July 8 due to what officials called a full facility outbreak.

Alberta Health Services says there have been no new COVID-19 cases linked to the Misericordia’s outbreak since July 18.

Patients who were in the hospital continued to receive treatment, while labouring mothers and patients with scheduled day procedures were rebooked or cared for at other Edmonton-area hospitals.

The hospital’s emergency department as well as its labour and baby delivery services resumed operations on Friday.

Officials say the hospital will also begin phased reopening of scheduled ambulatory appointments and surgical procedures.

“Early in the outbreak at the Misericordia, we took significant measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and ensure the safety of patients, staff, physicians, and volunteers,” Dr. David Zygun, medical director, AHS Edmonton Zone, said in a release.

“With an abundance of caution, and nearly a month without a new case linked to the initial outbreak, we are confident the site is ready to begin accepting incoming patients to a safe environment of care.”

Also Friday, health officials reported 84 new COVID-19 cases in Alberta and one new death.

Since the pandemic began in March, there have been a total of 12,053 cases and 221 deaths in the province.

There are 1,036 active cases in Alberta, as well as 48 people in hospital and 13 in intensive care.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 14, 2020

The Canadian Press

Source: – Cochrane Today

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Tam warns of possible surge in COVID-19 cases – Canada News – Castanet.net

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Only a small fraction of the 40,000 new ventilators Canada ordered for hospitals last spring have already been delivered but several companies involved say their production lines will start delivering the products faster in the next few weeks.

The promise of new arrivals comes as Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, warned Friday that a fall surge of COVID-19 cases could overwhelm the health-care system, including its supply of critical care beds and ventilators.

“What we know based on what we learned from other countries and cities that had a devastating impact in that initial wave, if you exceeded that capacity the mortality goes up really, really high,” she said.

Flu season and other respiratory infections common in the fall could put added pressure on the system if COVID-19 flares up in a big way.

Tam said there were many lessons learned from the spring, when the government was ill-prepared and without enough protective equipment for health-care workers, and feared a massive surge of COVID-19 would overwhelm the health-care system.

“We are much better prepared than we were before,” she said.

In March, Canadians watched in horror as northern Italy’s COVID-19 outbreak overran its health-care system, leaving doctors to choose which patients got a ventilator and which were left without one. That experience, coupled with warnings it could happen here too, compelled federal and provincial governments to order thousands of new ventilators.

But much like surgical face masks and N95 respirators, Canada didn’t already produce many ventilators domestically, and getting them from international sources is tough when global need for new ventilators is in the hundreds of thousands. So Canada asked firms here if they could step up, and out of that four new consortiums to build ventilators were formed.

A fifth contract was signed with Thornhill Medical, a Toronto firm that at that point was making about 50 of its portable breathing machines a month.

In all, Canada ordered 40,328 ventilators, for an estimated $1.1 billion, and as of Friday, it had just 606 in hand.

Paul-Emile Cloutier, the president of national health-care advocate HealthCareCAN, said there is concern about the status of the government’s orders for personal protective equipment and ventilators ahead of the possibility COVID-19 will surge again in Canada this fall.

“Details are crucial as we prepare for the expected next wave of COVID-19,” he said.

Procurement Minister Anita Anand said Friday the government is pushing on to get the entirety of the orders in place. A statement from her department said “Canada currently has sufficient ventilators to meet current demands” and that the ones on order are to bolster existing Public Health Agency of Canada stockpiles, as well as the units already in hospitals and provincial warehouses across the country.

But Health Canada won’t say how many ventilators the country now has in total. It will also not disclose any modelling for how many could be needed in a worst-case scenario situation. In March there were about 5,000 ventilators nationally, and another 500 in the national emergency stockpile.

Canada’s ability to plank the COVID-19 curve in the spring meant warnings about running out of ventilators never came to fruition.

John Walmsley, the executive vice president at Starfish Medical in Victoria, said that took the pressure off his new coalition, Canadian Emergency Ventilators, Inc.

“We have a little bit more elbow room to do things in a bit of a controlled manner but I would say we’re looking to get it done this year,” he said.

“We’re all concerned about a second wave and being ready for that and so we’re on board to deliver for that.”

Canadian Emergency Ventilators is still waiting for Health Canada approval before it can start shipping its promised 7,500 machines. It submitted the documents in June and it is taking a bit longer than expected to get the green light.

Once that happens, the Public Health Agency of Canada would have to test the product, and then the units that have already been built could be shipped, said Walmsley. He is still hopeful to fill the order by the end of the year.

Thornhill Medical CEO Lesley Gouldie said her company’s partnership with Linamar, a manufacturer based in Guelph, Ont., has been a great success. Thornhill is to provide 1,020 machines to Canada, and has shipped 27 so far.

Gouldie said Linamar can make as many as 100 of the units a week, but getting the supplies for the 1,500 parts that make up their portable device proved to be difficult in a pandemic.

“The limiting factor is the supply chains,” Gouldie said.

She said the kinks are mostly worked out now, and she expects to ship enough machines each week to fulfil their contract by early December.

Rick Jamieson, the CEO of FTI Professional Grade, said they expect to fulfil their entire contract for 10,000 ventilators by Dec. 12. FTI is one of several companies in a consortium called Ventilators for Canadians, which has already delivered 132 ventilators. Another 120 are on track for delivery next week and 240 in the last week of August.

“We have activated a fourth shift to increase production knowing that a second wave is likely this fall and winter,” said Jamieson.

Montreal’s CAE received Health Canada approval for its new ventilator on June 17, and said that day it expected to begin shipping “hundreds each week.” It has a contract to deliver 10,000.

The final company, Vexos, was the last to sign a contract, and had to submit its product to Health Canada as well, and began shipping in late July.

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Ventilator supply starts to increase as Tam warns of possible surge of COVID-19 – Toronto Sun

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OTTAWA — Less than two per cent of the 40,000 new ventilators Canada ordered for hospitals last spring have already been delivered.

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam says Canada is better prepared for a fall wave of COVID-19 than it was in the spring, but also says that wave could be big enough to overwhelm Canada’s health-care system, including its supply of ventilators.

Health Canada won’t say how many ventilators hospitals could need to respond to such a surge, but insists it has enough for now, with the new ones ordered meant to augment existing stockpiles.

Only 606 of the 40,328 ventilators Ottawa ordered in April and May have arrived, but at least three of the companies involved say they expect to double or even triple the number they ship in the coming weeks.

Four of them needed Health Canada approval for their product, which is still outstanding in two cases, and another said supply chain issues delayed production.

While the contracts for the ventilators, worth more than $1.1 billion, run through March 2021, most of the companies expect to fulfil their entire order before the end of the year.

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