Health Canada won’t say how many ventilators hospitals could need to respond to a surge, but insists it has enough for now.
OTTAWA — 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.
Manitobans waiting more than 2 hours to speak to Health Links – CTV News Winnipeg
As COVID-19 cases rise in Manitoba, Health Links is experiencing increased call volumes, resulting in longer wait times for callers.
According to a spokesperson from Shared Health, the increase in calls is attributed to the spike in COVID-19 cases, as well as the return to school on Sept. 8. They noted a small number of callers are looking for the results to their COVID-19 tests.
In a statement on Sept. 23, the spokesperson said because of the increase in calls, Manitobans are experiencing longer-than-average wait times to talk to Health Links, noting that wait times vary throughout the day.
On average in the past week, wait times have ranged between 53 and 128 minutes, though those calling at peak times may wait even longer.
“As COVID-19 activity in Manitoba can be expected to continue to vary, the volume of calls to HL-IS is being monitored closely with consideration being given to how current wait times may be addressed,” the statement said.
The spokesperson reminded Manitobans that they can get their COVID-19 test results through the online results portal on Shared Health’s website, as long as they have a Manitoba health card.
Anyone who tests positive will be contacted directly, but the posting of negative results could take several days.
Health Links, a phone-based nursing triage system, is the flagship program for the Provincial Health Contact Centre.
Four Ottawa schools under outbreak as number of COVID-19 cases inches up – Ottawa Citizen
Article content continued
The other three schools with outbreaks remain open although some students have been sent home to isolate.
Whether a school remains open during an outbreak depends on how many groups of students are affected, said the statement from Ottawa Public Health.
Officials trace close contacts, which usually includes anyone in the same classroom as someone who has tested positive. Close contacts are usually sent home to self-isolate for 14 days.
“If there is sufficient evidence to indicate that there is risk of spread to additional cohorts, there may be a decision to close the entire school in order to stop transmission in the school,” said Public Health.
At Franco Ouest, where three students tested positive for COVID-19, parents were sent a letter from public health saying a “partial dismissal” of students at the school had been decided upon because the outbreak was “contained to a small group.”
“There is no evidence of widespread transmission within the school,” the letter said. The duration of the dismissal has not been established, but it could be two or more weeks, said the letter.
Public health officials notify students who need to isolate or be tested for COVID-19.
However, all students and staff at schools under outbreak should monitor themselves for symptoms and avoid going to “facilities where physical distancing cannot be maintained, in particular daycare centres, play groups, etc.” said the letter to parents. “Visiting older persons or those with chronic illness is also not recommended during this time.”
Murder trial on pause while Winnipeg juror tested for COVID-19 – Medicine Hat News
By Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press on September 23, 2020.
WINNIPEG – Jury deliberations for a second-degree murder trial in Manitoba have been put on hold so a juror can be tested for COVID-19.
Court of Queenâ€™s Bench Justice Vic Toews told the remaining 11 jurors that the man was exhibiting symptoms and was not allowed to enter the courthouse.
The other jurors were sent home and advised to self-isolate until the manâ€™s test results are complete.
Jury trials were suspended across the country in the spring as the justice system grappled with how to handle the pandemic.
They resumed in Manitoba at the start of September with the trial of Kane Moar, who is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Ricardo Hibi.
Hibi, a 34-year-old foster home manager, was stabbed to death in 2018.
The court put several protocols in place. Jury selections have been held in a large convention centre near the courthouse and there has been physical distancing in courtrooms during trials.
Masks also became mandatory after an employee at the Winnipeg courthouse tested positive for the novel coronavirus earlier this month.
Toews reassured jurors in the Moar trial about the precautions before sending them home Wednesday.
â€œAt this time, the best advice I can give you is simply go home,â€ he said. â€œI would advise you to self-isolate over this period of time, minimize your contacts as much as you can and you will be contacted by the court as to when you come back.â€
The judge said he was optimistic that jurors would return as soon as Thursday to hear the charge before beginning deliberations on a verdict. However, Toews said there may have to be other actions if the juror’s results come back positive for COVID-19.
â€œIâ€™m taking instructions from the public health officials, not only in respect of the results of testing of your colleague on the jury, but what implications that has for you.â€
Manitoba announced 42 new cases of COVID-19 in the province Wednesday, as the number of people testing positive in the capital city continued to surge.
Thirty of those new cases are in the Winnipeg health region and the province announced possible exposures at restaurants, bars and during a trivia night at a pub.
Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief provincial public health officer, said earlier this week he was worried by the rising numbers in Winnipeg, where some people who tested positive had visited multiple locations while symptomatic.
The province also announced confirmed cases in three more schools, but said the infections were not acquired in the classroom and the risk is low.
There have so far been 1,674 cases in Manitoba and 18 people have died.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 23, 2020.
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