Canadian ER visits dropped by half during 1st wave of pandemic, national data shows

In Ontario, 5,400 fewer patients a day visited the ER during the first wave of the pandemic, according to an analysis of data compiled by the Canadian Institute for Health Information. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

(Valérie Ouellet, Melanie Meloche-Holubowski/ CBC News) — Emergency and operating rooms across the country were historically empty during the first months of the pandemic, according to national data compiled by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI).

The biggest dips were seen in Quebec and Ontario. Between March and June, Ontario reported seeing about half the usual number of ER patients on 19 days. In Quebec, that significant drop happened 15 times.

In Quebec, there were 3,100 fewer emergency room visits per day between March and June, compared to the same period in 2019, according to a CBC News analysis of CIHI figures. In Ontario, that’s the equivalent of 5,400 fewer daily visits.

Even provinces with few or no cases of COVID-19 reported their emergency departments were emptier than usual around mid-March.

“The most unexpected finding for us was the consistency,” said Tracy Johnson, director of Health System Analysis and Emerging Issues with CIHI. (…)

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