Trying to protect hospitals, Quebec health officials urge public to reduce contact now

Although the province allows gatherings of up to 10 people until Sunday, Public health authorities in the Quebec City region are asking residents to think twice before sending out Christmas dinner invitations.

“To be authorized does not necessarily mean that it is desirable”, declared Thursday afternoon the Dr. André Dontigny, director of public health of the region of the National capital, during a press conference.

The Quebec City region – as well as Chaudière-Appalaches in its south – reported a record number of COVID-19 cases on Thursday with 671 and 566 new cases, respectively.

Hospitalizations in the two regions are also on the rise. Quebec City saw 16 COVID-19 patients hospitalized Thursday – triple the number of patients hospitalized earlier this week.

The vast majority of these patients, according to the health authority, are over 60 years old and not vaccinated.

The number of COVID-19 patients in Chaudière-Appalaches has doubled since last week for a total of 15.

“It’s still unclear how this will play out but clearly the reason we’re here today is that we fear that if we’re not careful the rise could be catastrophic with major impacts on the healthcare system. “Said Dontigny.

Health officials in Quebec City and surrounding areas say the Omicron variant could lead to significant cuts in hospital services in the new year if residents are not careful over the next few days. (Alexandre Duval / Radio-Canada)

Chaudière-Appalaches is once again one of the regions hardest hit by the pandemic, with a positivity rate of 15% and 696 active cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

“The epidemiological situation is critical,” said Dr Liliana Romero, regional director of public health, adding that the situation is particularly serious in Thetford Mines and Saint-Georges.

“Reducing your number of contacts and getting vaccinated is paramount right now. We need to do it now, not in January.”

Romero said the region’s low vaccination rate and reliance on workplaces that do not allow teleworking, such as factories and farms, are the main reasons the number of cases is so high. raised.

Health system hits a wall, warns intensive care doctor

Dr Stéphane Bergeron, director of professional services and medical affairs at CHU de Québec-Université Laval, said the region’s health system is currently under attack on two fronts.

Not only is there a surge in the number of patients needing care, he says, but the new variant is so transmissible that it puts a strain on the already dire staff situation.

“It is undeniable that, in the current context, there will be a reduction in hospital services and activities both on the north shore and on the south shore. The level to which we reduce these services will depend on the response you give today and tomorrow to COVID, “he said.

Currently, 684 health care workers in Quebec and 277 in Chaudière-Appalaches are on COVID-19 leave, either because they have tested positive for the virus or because they are in isolation.

“As a healthcare professional in the front line of intensive care for 21 months, I have never felt that the system was so fragile in the face of the demand to come,” said Dr Mathieu Simon, pulmonologist and head of the intensive care unit in the hospital. Iinstitute University of Cardiology and Pulmonology of Quebec.

“If you combine the increase in the number of cases in the population and the reduction in available health workers, we are walking straight into a wall.”

Significant delays in testing

COVID-19 test sites in Quebec are overwhelmed this week, as the number of cases in the region hit an all-time high on Thursday. (Hadi Hassin / Radio-Canada)

All the appointments for COVID-19 tests in the Quebec City region over the next few days have been made.

With rapid test kits sometimes hard to find, the regional health authority is also urging anyone with symptoms to be patient and stay home.

“Be responsible. If you’re so sick that you think you might need to be tested, don’t go outside. That’s it. If you can’t get the test or the kit that is available at a drugstore, or was available in pharmacy, pretend you’re positive, ”Simon said.

In a statement, the health authority said it also faced a technical issue that prevented it from opening appointments more days later in the week.

In the meantime, the health authority will speak with people who currently have appointments to make sure they have symptoms before being tested.

No need for a state of emergency, according to the mayor

At a press conference earlier today, Quebec City Mayor Bruno Marchand backed up comments he made earlier this week, saying the city will not declare a state of emergency like Montreal. did it.

“We are not at all in the same [situation] like Montreal, ”Marchand repeated. “We have at the moment a plethora of tools with which to work in order to manage this crisis, in order to take the appropriate actions, in order to get out of this crisis.

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