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COVID shutdowns of medical access cost 4,000 lives not related to the pandemic

COVID shutdowns of medical access cost 4,000 lives not related to the pandemic

A survey suggests that 4,000 Canadians died in 2020, not of COVID, but from delay of diagnosis and surgery due to the pandemic and a reluctance by some residents to visit medical practitioners during COVID. The report was produced by Deloitte for the Canadian Medical Association (CMA). According to the report. Researchers compared the rate of non-covid deaths to the normal rates of various deats in normal times.The report found that at their peak in September 2020, the number of deaths not related to COVID-19 was 5% greater than the expected mortality rate for a normal year. This pattern is in line with the excess mortality observed in international jurisdictions during the pandemic.

Doctor visits for chronic conditions plummeted

The report said that people with chronic diseases like hypertension and cardiac disease were not seeing their physicians. In-person specialist visits for chronic disease management  plummeted throughout the pandemic for some of the most common chronic diseases. In April 2020, there were 68%-94% fewer in-person visits than in April 2019.  As of January 2021, the number of in-person visits remained significantly below the 2019 levels, ranging from roughly 60% below for patients with hypertensive heart disease to 87% for patients with diabetes.

Cancer screenings seriously impacted

Cancer screening was seriously affected. Before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, there were significant year-over-year increases in the number of mammograms, fecal tests and colonoscopies conducted in Ontario, probably as a result of the expanded availability and enhanced convenience of cancer screenings in the province.  In March 2020, routine cancer screenings were paused because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This resulted in the closure of screening centres across Ontario and a steep decrease in the number of mammograms, fecal tests, colonoscopies and Pap tests conducted.

Tacking backlog will be expensive

The report says correcting for the negative impacts of the pandemic on the health care system will take years. A significant procedural backlog –to the tune of 327,800 procedures – remains in Canada.

At least $1.3 billion in additional funding is required to return wait times to their pre-pandemic levels. This number may be even higher when additional procedures and the cancellation of non-urgent surgeries in several provinces during the fourth wave are factored in.

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