Patients with COVID-19 stay an average of 17 days in hospital, according to a new study published by the National Institute of Public Health of Quebec (INSPQ). A rather long stay, almost three times longer than for patients with influenza, which increases the pressure on hospitals.
In a document entitled “Comparison of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 during the first wave to those due to influenza during previous seasons”, we learn that patients with COVID-19 stay on average 17.2 days at hospital, compared to 6.4 days for influenza patients.
In patients 80 years and older with COVID-19, the average hospital stay is 22 days. Patients in this age group with influenza only stay there for 9-10 days.
Microbiologist-infectious disease specialist at the Jewish General Hospital, Dr.r Karl Weiss explains that patients hospitalized with COVID-19 have “respiratory problems that last for a long time due to the inflammation caused by the virus.” “Their oxygen needs last a long time. We cannot wean them quickly ”, summarizes the Dr Weiss.
The latter stresses, however, that since the first wave, treatments have improved. “The length of stay for patients is possibly shorter now. But it remains longer than for patients with influenza. […] We are unable to give them leave quickly, ”he said.
The fact that patients with COVID-19 stay in hospital for a long time has serious consequences for the health system. The Dr Weiss explains that even though only 25 new hospitalizations are added each day, after 12 days the first cases are still there, which quickly clogs hospitals. “Even a small number of hospital patients end up making a large number. This is what is currently worrying, ”he said.
A virus that “counts for a lot”
Throughout Quebec and Montreal, in particular, the increase in hospitalizations contributes to making the health network vulnerable, remind experts in the field. “The pressure on hospitals is real. Most establishments are currently reorganizing themselves to anticipate the influx of patients expected in the coming weeks, ”explains Dr.r Quoc Nguyen, geriatrician at the Center hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM).
Thus, a question arises: should the measures have been more forceful, more quickly, to limit the increase in hospitalizations? “It’s hard to say,” says Nguyen. If we want to avoid the load shedding, of course we have to be more severe, but I don’t know if, as a society, we could have accepted it. ”
A case of COVID-19 counts for a lot. This virus deconditiones people, especially the elderly, so that they have to stay longer to receive other care, even if they are cured.
The Dr Quoc Nguyen, geriatrician at the CHUM
Expert in the organization of health services at the School of Public Health of the University of Montreal (ESPUM), Professor Marie-Pascale Pomey says that Quebec could have imagined other solutions. “We have not at all opened up the possibility of creating hospitals dedicated to COVID-19, in order to preserve our care environments. And there, our system is directly impacted, except that there is no parallel solution, ”she observes, saying however that she understands that“ human resources issues ”can slow down the ambitions of the authorities.
“The fact remains that since September, we have never been able to decrease the curve, among other things because the problem of access to tests is still present. The deadlines are long, so we cannot contain the risk of infection quickly, ”adds Mme Pomey.
For Roxane Borgès Da Silva, specialist in public health, the increase in hospitalizations is worrying, especially because the containment measures announced Tuesday by Quebec lack bite. “The closures do not even include the manufacturing sector, while 31% of outbreaks in the workplace come from there,” she denounces.
There will be no economic recovery if the population is not healthy. The holidays are going to be a big rush for the network, which is of great concern.
Roxane Borgès Da Silva, professor at ESPUM
Mme Da Silva is also of the opinion that the measures could have been thought of differently. “We wonder what impact the closure of schools will have, when we know that high school will already be online for the most part. We should have closed non-essential businesses now, seeing this increase in cases which will materialize in a huge number of hospitalizations, ”she concludes.
In CHSLDs, the pressure is such that hospitals are asking not to transfer patients anymore. “It worries us because we want our patients to have access to care. On an ethical side, it comes to me, ”says Dre Sophie Zhang, Deputy Head of Accommodation at the CIUSSS du Center-Sud-de-l’Île-de-Montréal.
“You can feel the pressure from all sides”, adds Mme Zhang, who is “not sure” that “more confinement equals fewer cases” at this point. “On our side, we are preparing the scenario of a post-Holiday disaster, in a situation of overflow. We can no longer afford to say that things are going to be fine, ”she concludes.