Canada, COVID-19, DCMontreal Commentary, DCMontreal Light, Health, Montreal, News

A Micro View of COVID’s Burden On Hospitals


In the immediate aftermath of the 2020 year-end holiday season, the COVID-19 statistics in Quebec continue to be at alarmingly high levels. Both the number of infections and the number of deaths attributed to the virus rise every day. It would appear more folks went a visitin’ during the festive season than are admitting it; scofflaw politicians aside.

In light of these rising numbers, the government has initiated a ‘shock therapy’ approach. As I recently wrote, this includes a serious lockdown and a curfew. There are many things to fear during a pandemic, not least of which is the burden on the health system. At the best of times, the system is close to bursting, throw in a couple of thousand COVID cases a day and it is not long before a rupture occurs.

This was the case in one institution, but if similar walkouts happened in other hospitals it is clear the system was hamstrung even before things turned dire.

My wife has a dear friend who works in a Montreal hospital as an x-ray technician. When the pandemic first hit, in the early spring of 2020, not wanting to have anything to do with it, several of her colleagues with compromised immune systems went on extended sick leave. This was the case in one institution, but if similar walkouts happened in other hospitals it is clear the system was hamstrung even before things turned dire.

As an example of the strain put on the whole system, one of the aspects of my wife’s friend’s job is to bring portable x-ray equipment to patients unable to be moved. Think of bringing the mountain to Mohammad if you will. If the patient shows signs of COVID-19 and is coughing, before taking the x-ray gear into the patient’s room, there is a process of suiting-up in what is essentially a hazmat outfit. 

The outfit requires two people to put on properly. The second person is responsible for checking that all is properly sealed, and ensuring that all steps are undertaken. The technician then, looking a bit like Bib the Michelin Man, goes about the business of x-raying.

During this time both she and her colleague, as well as the machine, are not available for other patients.

Once the x-rays are done, there is an extensive disinfecting process to be undertaken. This again requires two people. Not just the machine, which is almost dismantled and decontaminated, but she has to undergo a serious regime of discarding robes, gloves, masks, and then washing herself. A key role played by the second person is to make sure the technician washes her hands after each step: remove gloves, wash hands; remove robe, wash hands; remove face shield, wash hands, and so on. Bearing in mind that proper hand washing is a twenty second procedure, it is understandable how this takes anywhere from 40 to 50 minutes.

During this time both she and her colleague, as well as the machine, are not available for other patients.

That’s just one person in one hospital. If you extrapolate that to the entire health system, it is obvious why there is a fear of increasing numbers.

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