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Quebec City hospitals feeling pressure as COVID-19 cases spike

·2 min read
The Hôtel-Dieu hospital in Lévis is the main COVID-19 treatment centre for the Chaudière-Appalaches region, which is experiencing a sharp rise in cases. (Raymond Routhier/Radio-Canada - image credit)
The Hôtel-Dieu hospital in Lévis is the main COVID-19 treatment centre for the Chaudière-Appalaches region, which is experiencing a sharp rise in cases. (Raymond Routhier/Radio-Canada - image credit)

Officials in the Quebec City region say the recent surge in COVID-19 cases is having a significant impact on hospital capacity.

Quebec City reported 282 new cases of the virus today after several record-breaking days last week and more than 400 new cases for three consecutive days.

In the region's university hospital network, there are 63 COVID-19 patients in the hospital, including 14 in intensive care, and more than 140 staff members are away from their posts, either because they contracted the virus, or they're in preventive isolation.

Dr. Stéphane Bergeron, the director of professional services at the CHU, said more than 100 procedures will have to be postponed, and hundreds of outpatient appointments are being delayed.

"Beds, we can open several," Bergeron said at a press conference Tuesday. "What is harder is human resources and people to take care of the patients."

He said the network is caring for a lot more patients, and doing so with far fewer resources, a reality officials had hoped to avoid.

University hospital network CEO Martin Beaumont said the winds changed completely and quickly in the region, and the administration is trying to shuffle as many resources as possible to avoid even greater delays.

But Beaumont also said the region's hospitals had almost no time to catch their breath between the second and third waves of COVID-19. He said pediatric and oncology procedures have been maintained, but that there's been barely a dent in the backlog from procedures that were postponed earlier in the pandemic.

On Quebec City's south shore, l'Hôtel-Dieu Hospital in Lévis is at capacity, and has just opened a second COVID unit at the hospital in St-Georges, in the Beauce.

Hôtel-Dieu Hospital deputy director Dr. Jean Lapointe said he's anticipating the number of hospitalizations to increase even more, especially as the number of confirmed cases continues to rise.

He likened the staffing shortage and the struggle against COVID-19 to war, and said with each wave of the virus, there are fewer staff to treat patients.

Lapointe said he's doing everything he can to find staff, but everyone is already working overtime, and people are exhausted.

Premier François Legault said during his news conference Tuesday there are three regions in the province that are particularly vulnerable to consequences from a capacity squeeze: the Outaouais, the Quebec City region, and Chaudière-Appalaches.

Legault said while vaccinations are moving forward, he's now worried about young people contracting the virus, particularly because if and when they're hospitalized, they stay for longer.