Wednesday, April 29, 2020

UV light with ties to Englewood company could be new tool in fight against COVID-19

UV light with ties to Englewood company could be new tool in fight against COVID-19: ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (KDVR) — President Donald Trump’s comments about possibly injecting patients with disinfectants to treat COVID-19 may have overshadowed his remarks at the same time about the…

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Canada has weathered epidemics before and will again

From the Spanish flu to TB to whooping cough to polio, we have hunkered down. Our protective instincts made sense then and do now

By Rodney Clifton
Senior Fellow
Frontier Centre for Public Policy

COVID-19 is causing panic across Canada. But before wringing our hands in anguish, we should put this crisis into a broader context.

Places like universities, libraries, schools, churches, restaurants and pubs are closed. International flights are being redirected to just four airports with appropriate screening facilities, and the border between Canada and the United States is closed to all non-essential travel.

Essential services, grocery stores, doctors’ offices and hospitals are open – at least for now.

The country’s economy is grinding to a halt, while the health-care system is gearing up. Gearing up health care, as we know, requires considerable resources that can only come from a vibrant economy. But this problem is being pushed into the future.

Now we have a pandemic to fight – again.

To gain a broader context, a few statistics will help:

·                    The most devastating epidemic in Canadian history was the Spanish flu in 1918-20 that killed more than 50,000 Canadians. Even today, the common flu kills over 3,000 Canadians a year.
·                    In 1901, tuberculosis (TB) killed almost 10,000 Canadians out of a population of about 5.4 million. In 1947, when I was three years old, the death rate for TB was about 110 per 100,000 people.
·                    In 1945, a whooping cough epidemic killed about 25 per cent of infected babies under a year old. Infected children between the ages of one and two had a death rate of about 10 per cent, still very high but much better than 25 per cent.
·                    During the Second World War, approximately 7,000 young Canadian servicemen and women were killed every year; and every year, another 9,000 were wounded, many of them very seriously.
·                    In the early 1950s, a polio epidemic swept the nation, paralyzing about 11,000 people. The epidemic peaked in 1953 with about 500 deaths.
Of course, most Canadians are too young to have experienced these epidemics but many seniors still remember, as I do.

To date, fewer than 1,000 Canadians have died from COVID-19, yet provincial governments have declared states of emergency. People are being asked to restrict their interaction with others in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus. If the epidemic is not slowed, the medical system may become overburdened. If this happens, many more people will likely die.

This is the worst-case scenario but no one knows what’s coming. The experts don’t even know.

We know, however, that epidemics are horrible things that cause unmeasured pain and suffering. But pain and suffering have been a natural part of human life since the Garden of Eden. It’s only in the last 150 years that scientific research, the development of effective water and sanitation systems, and modern medical care have made epidemics less vicious and more amenable to human intervention.

Hopefully, human intervention will slow or stop this pandemic before too long.

Throughout history, humans have survived countless diseases and illnesses. And we will survive this virus. Of course, some people will die, probably those who are most vulnerable, the old and infirm, and people with deficient immune systems. Thankfully, children are not as likely to die.

What should we do?

Remember the advice our parents or grandparents gave, which is similar to what public health officials are telling us. Avoid unnecessary contact with people, especially those who may carry the virus, wash your hands often and don’t cough on other people. Most importantly, keep a distance from other people so they don’t cough on you.

Hunker down in isolation for however long it takes for this disease to run its course. Read some good books, listen to great music and informative podcasts, talk to friends, meditate to ease the stress in your mind and body, and write letters to loved ones.

Above all, try to stay happy. Some things can’t be controlled.

For those who haven’t lived through previous epidemics, this will be a new experience, something they will tell their kids and grandkids. T-shirts will be printed with the slogan “I survived the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020.”

Some people are likely to have more difficulty as time passes. Unless they’re ill, they may think they’re not infected. Undoubtedly, some will spread the virus to others without realizing what they’re doing. When the pandemic is over, some people are going to feel guilty because of their careless behaviour. Others are likely to feel foolish because they overreacted. This is to be expected and clinical psychologists will be working overtime.

Even so, Canadians have survived terrible epidemics in the past and will survive this one, too.

Rodney Clifton spent 18 months in a sanatorium with TB meningitis starting in 1947, when he was three years old. He is a professor emeritus at the University of Manitoba and a senior fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

Thursday, April 16, 2020



  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 large apple, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and lightly grease a 9-inch round cake pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together the eggs and oil. Add the cinnamon, white and brown sugars, and vanilla extract and mix until combined.
  3. Add the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder, and mix until thoroughly incorporated. Fold in the apples and the nuts and pour batter into prepared pan.
  4. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 4

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Vitamin D Supplements Could Reduce Risk of Influenza and COVID-19 Infection and Death

Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, Apr 9, 2020

Vitamin D Supplements Could Reduce Risk of Influenza and COVID-19 Infection and Death

by William B. Grant, PhD and Carole A. Baggerly

(OMNS Apr 9, 2020) There are two main reasons why respiratory tract infections such as
influenza and COVID-19 occur in winter: winter sun and weather and low vitamin D status.
Many viruses live longer outside the body when sunlight, temperature, and humidity levels
are low as they are in winter [1].Vitamin D is an important component of the body's immune
 system, and it is low in winter due to low solar ultraviolet-B (UVB) doses from exposure
and the low supplement intakes of most. While nothing can be done about winter sun
and weather, vitamin D status can be raised through vitamin D supplements.
Vitamin D has several mechanisms that can reduce risk of infections [2]. Important
 mechanisms regarding respiratory tract infections include:
  • inducing production of cathelicidins and defensins that can lower viral 
  • survival and replication rates as well as reduce risk of bacterial infection
  • reducing the cytokine storm that causes inflammation and damage to
  •  the lining of the lungs that can lead to pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome.
Vitamin D deficiency has been found to contribute to acute respiratory distress
syndrome, a major cause of death associated with COVID-19 [3]. An analysis of
case-fatality rates in 12 U.S. communities during the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic
 found that communities in the sunny south and west had much lower case-fatality
rates (generally from pneumonia) than those in the darker northeast [4].
To reduce risk of infection, it is recommended that people at risk of influenza and/or
COVID-19 consider taking 10,000 IU/day (250 micrograms/day) of vitamin D for
a few weeks to rapidly raise 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] concentrations,
followed by at least 5000 IU/day. The goal should be to raise 25(OH)D concentrations
above 40-60 ng/ml (100-150 nmol/l), taking whatever is necessary for that individual
 to achieve and maintain that level.
For treatment of people who become infected with COVID-19, higher vitamin D doses
 would be required to rapidly increase 25(OH)D concentrations.
Vitamin D is an inactive, pro-hormone which is also considered a seasonal, 'conditional'
 vitamin as vitamin D is not usually produced by the skin during the winter or when
 people are inside or covered up in the summer. Vitamin D is produced through the
action of UVB radiation on 7-dehydrocholesterol in the skin followed by a thermal
reaction. It then enters the blood stream and when it reaches the liver, it receives a
hydroxyl group and becomes 25(OH)D. This is the circulating metabolite that is
 measured to determine vitamin D status [25(OH)D concentration]. This metabolite
is essentially inert, but is converted in the kidneys to 1,25(OH)2D (calcitriol) for
 circulation in the blood, where it helps regulate serum calcium concentrations.
 Other organs can also convert 25(OH)D to calcitriol as needed, such as to fight
 cancer. Most of the effect of vitamin D is mediated by calcitriol entering vitamin D
 receptors (VDRs) attached to chromosomes in nearly every cell in the body,
 resulting in many genes being up- or down-regulated.
An adequate magnesium level is required for the activation of 25(OH)D [5]. Since
many people in our modern society are deficient, along with supplements of vitamin D,
 magnesium supplements (300-400 mg/d, in citrate, chloride or malate form) should
 be considered. Data from voluntary participants in's 25(OH)D
concentration measurement program found that taking magnesium supplements
was equivalent to taking ~400 IU/d more vitamin D supplementation. [6]
While the initial classical role of vitamin D is to regulate calcium and phosphate absorption
and metabolism, vitamin D has many non-skeletal effects. Many of the effects are known
 from observational studies in which serum 25(OH)D concentrations for those with or
without specific diseases or conditions are compared statistically. Such studies generally
find that concentrations above 30 to 50 ng/ml (75 to 125 nmol/l) are associated with
 lower risk of disease than concentrations below 10-20 ng/ml, such as cancer, cardiovascular
disease, diabetes mellitus, etc. [7]. Two large-scale randomized controlled trials (RCTs)
did find significant reductions in incidence and mortality rates for cancer and progression
from prediabetes to diabetes in the secondary analyses [8].
At this point, what is needed are quickly developed public health studies to evaluate the
effect on preventing COVID-19 in the populations that achieved the recommended serum
 concentrations. Another critically important project would be to evaluate the serum 25(OH)D
 concentrations of those who develop severe symptoms of COVID-19 infection. Achieved 25(OH)D
 concentrations should be measured.
Medical systems generally require randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that investigate
effectiveness and risks before accepting what they consider a novel treatment. This requirement
is problematic for vitamin D since most RCTs conducted to date have not followed Heaney's
 guidelines for all nutrient studies:
Heaney's guidelines [9], applied to vitamin D:
  1. Basal 25(OH)D must be measured, used as an inclusion criterion for entry into study, and recorded in the report of the trial.
  2. Vitamin D supplementation must be large enough to change vitamin D status and must be measured.
  3. The change in 25(OH)D produced in those enrolled in the trials must be measured and recorded in the report of the trial.
  4. The hypothesis to be tested must be that a change in 25(OH)D (not just a change in vitamin D intake) produces the sought-for effect.
  5. Conutrient status must be optimized in order to ensure that the test nutrient is the only nutrition-related, limiting factor in the response
Open-label field trials based on Heaney's guidelines have found significantly reduced risk
 of disease such as breast cancer [10].
Regarding the safety of high-dose vitamin D supplementation, the abstract of a recent
article [11] stated:
"During this time, we have admitted over 4700 patients, the vast majority of whom 
agreed to supplementation with either 5000 or 10,000 IUs/day. Due to disease concerns, 
a few agreed to larger amounts, ranging from 20,000 to 50,000 IUs/day. There have 
been no cases of vitamin D3 induced hypercalcemia or any adverse events attributable
 to vitamin D3 supplementation in any patient." In addition, many reviews have reported
that vitamin D supplementation is safe.
The studies that aim to provide whatever intake is necessary to obtain a serum level
 between 40- 60 ng/ml (100-150 nmol/L) have shown a wide range of responses to
a specific vitamin D intake. Thus, it is necessary to measure 25(OH)D concentrations
at the start of vitamin D supplementation and after supplementing for a 2-3 months.
Hypercalceima is the only significant risk [12], but generally does not occur below
150 ng/ml (375 nmol/l) and can be easily treated by stopping supplementation at that time.
The groups for whom it is most important to take vitamin D supplements during the
 current COVID-19 pandemic are health care providers and first responders. [13]
It should be noted that treatment of those with COVID-19 has several goals: (1) reduce
 the symptoms; (2) overcome the adverse effects of the infection such as impaired
oxygen uptake due to pneumonia; (3) if possible, reduce survival and replication
of the virus; (4) keep the patient alive long enough so that the body's immune system
can overcome the infection. As discussed in a recent review, the complex, integrated
immune system needs multiple specific micronutrients, including vitamins
A, D, C, E, B6, and B12, folate, zinc, iron, copper, and selenium, which play vital,
often synergistic roles at every stage of the immune response. Micronutrients
with the strongest evidence for immune support are vitamins C and D and zinc.
Available evidence indicates that supplementation with multiple micronutrients
with immune-supporting roles may modulate immune function and reduce the
 risk of infection [14]. Thus, more attention should be paid to supporting the
 immune system when treating COVID-19 patients.
Data from volunteers underscores the interdependence of
 various supplements that affect immunity. Participants taking approximately
 1000 mg/d vitamin C achieved a 25(OH)D concentration of 40 ng/ml with
 586 IU/d lower vitamin D supplementation. [15]
Results for effects on 25(OH)D for vitamins B6, B12, K2, and calcium are
 available at
(William B. Grant, PhD, may be reached at and
 Carole A. Baggerly at )


1. Aldridge RA, Lewer D, Beale S, et al. (2020) Seasonality and immunity to laboratory-confirmed seasonal coronaviruses (HCoV-NL63, HCoV-OC43, and HCoV-229E): results from the Flu Watch cohort study [version 1; peer review: awaiting peer review] 30 March 2020.
2. Grant WB, Lahore H, McDonnell SL, Baggerly CA, French CB, Aliano JA, Bhattoa HP. (2020) Evidence that vitamin D supplementation could reduce risk of influenza and COVID-19 infections and deaths. Nutrients. 12: 988.
3. Dancer RC, Parekh D, Lax S, D'Souza V, Zheng S, Bassford CR, et al. (2015) Vitamin D deficiency contributes directly to the acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Thorax. 70:617-624.
4. Grant WB, Giovannucci E. (2009) The possible roles of solar ultraviolet-B radiation and vitamin D in reducing case-fatality rates from the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic in the United States. Dermatoendocrinol. 1:215-219.
5. Uwitonze AM, Razzaque MS. (2018) Role of magnesium in vitamin D activation and function. J Am Osteopath Assoc. 118:181-189.
6. GrassRoots Health Research Institute. (2020) Are both supplemental magnesium and vitamin K2 combined important for vitamin D levels?
7. Rejnmark L, Bislev LS, Cashman KD, Eir¡ksdottir G et al. (2017) Non-skeletal health effects of vitamin D supplementation: A systematic review on findings from meta-analyses summarizing trial data. PLoS One. 12(7):e0180512.
8. Grant WB, Boucher BJ. (2019) Why secondary analyses in vitamin D clinical trials are important and how to improve vitamin D clinical trial outcome analyses - A comment on "extra-skeletal effects of vitamin D. Nutrients. 11(9). pii: E2182.
9. Heaney RP. (2014) Guidelines for optimizing design and analysis of clinical studies of nutrient effects. Nutr Rev.72:48-54.
10.McDonnell SL, Baggerly CA, French CB, Baggerly LL, Garland CF et al. (2018) Breast cancer risk markedly lower with serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations ò60 vs < 20 ng/ml (150 vs 50 nmol/L): Pooled analysis of two randomized trials and a prospective cohort. PLoS One. 13(6):e0199265.
11. McCullough PJ, Lehrer DS, Amend J. (2019) Daily oral dosing of vitamin D3 using 5000 TO 50,000 international units a day in long-term hospitalized patients: Insights from a seven year experience. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 189:228-239.
12. Malihi Z, Wu Z, Lawes CMM, Scragg R. (2019) Adverse events from large dose vitamin D supplementation taken for one year or longer. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 188:29-37.
13. Grant WB. (2020) Re: Preventing a covid-19 pandemic: Can vitamin D supplementation reduce the spread of COVID-19? Try first with health care workers and first responders. BMJ, 368:m810.
14. Gombart AF, Pierre A, Maggini S. (2020) A review of micronutrients and the immune system-working in harmony to reduce the risk of infection. Nutrients 12(1). pii: E236.
15. GrassRoots Health Research Institute. (2020) Is supplemental vitamin C important for vitamin D levels?

Related publications

Grant WB, Al Anouti F, Moukayed M. (2020) Targeted 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentration measurements and vitamin D3 supplementation can have important patient and public health benefits. Eur J Clin Nutr. 74:366-376.
Grant WB, Boucher BJ, Bhattoa HP, Lahore H. (2018) Why vitamin D clinical trials should be based on 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 177:266-269.
McNamara L. (2020) COVID-19: Fighting fear and the coronavirus pandemic with precautions and quality supplements.
Laird E, Kenny EA. (2020) Vitamin D deficiency in Ireland - implications for COVID-19. Results from the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA).
McCartney DM, Byrne DG. (2020) Optimisation of vitamin D status for enhances immune-protection against COVID-19. Irish Med J.113:P58.
Schwalfenberg GK. (2020) Rapid Response: Covid 19, Vitamin D deficiency, smoking, age and lack of masks equals the perfect storm. BMJ, 368:m810.
Wimalawansa SJ. (2020) Global epidemic of coronavirus - COVID-19: What we can do to minimize risks. Eur J Biomedical Pharmaceutical Sci. 7:432-438.

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Riordan Clinic |
3100 N Hillside Ave
Wichita, Kansas 67219
United States

Monday, April 13, 2020


The medication dispenser will facilitate physical distancing while reducing burden on healthcare system amid global pandemic
CANADA | APRIL 6, 2020 - AceAge Inc. a healthcare technology company, will be offering Karie, its in-home medication dispenser at participating Care Pharmacy locations across Ontario, British Columbia and Nova Scotia, with expansion to the rest of Canada coming soon. Karie is a device that automatically organizes and dispenses medication for patients, ensuring the most vulnerable citizens can access the medicine they need at the prescribed times without being reliant on outside intervention.
Care Pharmacies will have the first retail pharmacy locations to offer Karie to residents in Ontario, British Columbia and Nova Scotia, provinces which are experiencing an increase in COVID-19 cases.  With this service, Care Pharmacies will ship medications to their patients homes, free of charge - helping to facilitate physical distancing efforts amid the COVID-19 outbreak while supporting effective medication management with the Karie device.
“It is very common for people living on their own, or in retirement homes, to have caregivers or family members come in to help manage their medication. With COVID-19, this poses a risk to vulnerable populations who could be potentially exposed to the virus,” said Spencer Waugh, CEO of AceAge. “By using Karie to manage and dispense medications, we are reducing the risk of exposure while maintaining a high level of care.”
Manufactured in Burlington, Ontario, Karie features a remote monitoring system that provides peace of mind for those unable to check up on their loved ones given the federal government’s call for physical distancing. If a dose of medication is missed, Karie will send a notification to any authorized friend, family member or caregiver, who can provide assistance if needed.
Before the device is ready for use, pharmacists pre-pack Karie with easy-to-open pouches that organize medications by day. When it is time to take the medication, Karie will light up and chime to notify the user. Care Pharmacies will be delivering these pre-packaged medications free of charge to those in need across Ontario, British Columbia and Nova Scotia.
“Karie is a virtual caregiver that ensures people who rely on multiple medications are able to access the support they need during this time of physical distancing,” said Ali Reyhany, President and CEO of Care Pharmacies. “New technologies like Karie are essential to helping us get through this pandemic without overburdening the healthcare system.”
With up to one in four hospital patients admitted due to medication errors, Karie provides users with access to proper medical assistance in the comfort of their own homes. AceAge has already sold thousands of devices for people across the world who will rely on Karie as their automated and trusted solution to prescription management.
“As we navigate through this global pandemic, Karie will continue to help vulnerable populations manage their medications independently to ensure they stay healthy. These types of telemedicine solutions will enable independence, and slow the spread of COVID-19,” said Waugh.
For more information on the Karie device, please visit For participating Care Pharmacy locations, please contact or visit .
About AceAge
AceAge Inc. is a healthcare technology company, creating beautiful and intuitive products to ease the aging process. Karie is AceAge's first commercially available product, making medication management as simple as possible. Outfitted with a front facing camera and Bluetooth connectivity, AceAge plans for Karie to become the central fixture of the connected health home.
About Care Pharmacies
Care Pharmacies is one of the leading independent pharmacy groups in Canada. With 38 pharmacies, mainly in Ontario and British Columbia, Care Pharmacies represents over 2 million prescriptions filled in its stores annually. Through its 38 locations, Care Pharmacies intends to provide industry leading patient care through market leading technology and staff empowerment.
LinkedIn: @AceAgeInc

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Rachael Williams

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Ottawa doing too little to protect Canadians

For weeks, the government told us that we’re prepared for COVID-19. Its early actions demonstrated something entirely different

By Susan Martinuk
Research Associate
Frontier Centre for Public Policy
Provide a timely response. Ensure transparency. Tell the truth.

These are just some of the basic tenets of crisis communications, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his crisis response team would do well to take them to heart because, so far during the COVID-19 crisis, their statements and actions have missed the mark in every way.

Every Canadian who checks the news knows there has been ample opportunity for the government and its affiliated bodies to come up with a coherent plan to contain and mitigate the virus, and to effectively communicate those efforts to its citizenry.

Yet, rather than timely action, Canadians have witnessed indecision and stalling. Daily press conferences feature the same empty verbiage about how the federal government has this under control, along with an update on the number of COVID-19 infections and deaths.\

But all chatter, little action and a rapidly growing number of infections has rightly led Canadians to the realization that our leaders are not doing the right things, even as they try to say the right words.

Many Canadians began to sense that lack of control early on, while they were entering into a then-undefined time of government-recommended self-isolation. Bored fingers naturally turned to Twitter feeds that led to #COVID19 and scores of posts decrying the utter absence of early screening at Toronto Pearson Airport and Vancouver International Airport.

A brother-in-law returned from Spain to “no screenings.” Someone else “arrived from Hawaii with pneumonia” only to find there was no one checking – or asking about – his/her health status. A Conservative MP posted that her cousin had just arrived in Vancouver from Japan – there was no screening, no information and no mention of self-isolation. Another tweet said, “Wife arrived after two weeks in Africa via Paris – Toronto – Calgary. No screening.” Still another, “My family just arrived in Vancouver via Hong Kong – walked right in with no screening at all.”

Four days after the declaration of a worldwide pandemic, contrary to what the government said, Canada had no screening measures in place for international travellers. Over and over, tweets shared this same scenario.

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair responded to the tweets with one of his own, “strongly recommending” all travellers coming from outside of Canada self-isolate for 14 days.

Over the past few years, we’ve all witnessed how well government-by-Twitter has worked for Americans. But apparently this one tweet was supposed to function as a substitute for hands-on screening.

On that same day (March 14), Canada Border Services Agency asserted that “enhanced screening has been in place at all airports since February.” It stated that all passengers (Canadians or other) are being assessed on arrival, asked to self-isolate if coming from China, Iran or Italy, and asked to “consider” self-isolating for 14 days when arriving from other countries. Health screening questions will be asked. It also claims there is additional signage to inform travelers, along with pamphlets and surgical masks to be given to “travellers of concern.”

For weeks, the government told us that we’re prepared. Health Minister Patty Hajdu has never failed to champion our readiness, even claiming that Canada has been praised by the World Health Organization for its efforts and the “sophisticated systems that we have developed over the last 17 years as a result of our lessons learned from SARS.” As a result of this extensive experience with viruses, she claimed there “is a plan to protect the health and safety of Canadians at home.”

So where is our vastly superior and experienced plan?

And why did we hold the door open to all foreign travellers while asking Canadians on those very same planes to make personal and financial sacrifices to self-isolate?

This inexplicable bias led to exasperated tweets such as, “So let me get this straight. I return from Vegas and the BC government says I should self-quarantine for 14 days. Travelers from US and other countries have unlimited access to hotels, restaurants, etc?”

If this incongruity was blatantly obvious to us, as mere citizens, surely those in charge should have recognized the problem – and fixed it.

The Canadian government’s ongoing efforts to stem the spread included closing the Canadian border to all foreign citizens on March 18. Isn’t this similar to the old adage of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted?

As stores close, schools empty, and Canadians stay at home, there appears to be a growing gap between the sacrifices we’re willing to make to stem this pandemic and the anemic efforts made by our government to protect us.

Susan Martinuk is a research associate with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Canada’s hospital system ill-prepared for COVID-19 crisis

Gwyn Morgan
Canada’s hopelessly dysfunctional and dangerous government-monopoly health-care system one of the least prepared in the world to deal with the crisis

By Gwyn Morgan
Troy Media
The Liberal government’s plan to use Canada’s “fiscal firepower” to help Canadian families and businesses weather the COVID-19 pandemic has been appropriately termed “a measured well-targeted response” by the Fraser Institute. But no amount of cash can change the terrible reality that Canada’s health-care system is one of the least prepared to deal with the crisis.

Decades before COVID-19 struck, Canadians in every province and territory were suffering, and some dying, on ever-lengthening wait lists.

In an already overloaded system with virtually zero spare capacity, treating burgeoning numbers of COVID-19 patients will necessitate further delay for other patients with time-critical afflictions such as cancer.

And that’s already happening. Over the past few days, two Ontario women had their cancer surgeries cancelled so hospitals can free up capacity for COVID-19 patients.

Canada’s hospital capacity has been in steady decline. The latest available statistics comparing 24 developed countries show that in 2017, Canada ranked dead last in hospital beds per capita at just 2.5 per thousand. Germany, Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Lithuania, France, Slovakia, Belgium and Latvia all had more than twice that number.

The U.S. was only marginally better at 2.8 but that’s where the similarity ends.

The occupancy level of Canada’s hospital beds was 92 per cent. That effectively means zero unused capacity since logistics and staffing issues make 100 per cent utilization impossible.

By contrast, hospital bed occupancy in the U.S. was 64 per cent. And for ICU critical care beds, crucial for COVID-19 treatment, the U.S. ranked first of the 24 countries with 35 per 100,000 population. Canada has only 12 per 100,000, the same number as overwhelmed Italy.

With infections rising each day, Canadian doctors face the daunting prospect of deciding who will be treated and who won’t. Those life-and-death decisions must be made not only for patients with COVID-19 but for other seriously ill patients who are displaced.

An October 2019 Fraser Institute report on health care in 28 countries found that Canada ranks second highest in per-capita spending but last in access to treatment. How could this have been allowed to happen?

When the crisis ends, that’s a question Canadians grieving for their lost loved ones will want answered.

But the answer is already clear. Canada is the only country in the world that outlaws private health care. Prime ministers, premiers and health-care administrators have known for years that our government-run monopoly system was suffering from the dual afflictions of unsustainable cost growth and ever-lengthening wait lists.

Meanwhile, anti-private sector unions and other entrenched interests vigorously perpetuated the myth that Canada has world’s best health system and engendered based fear of ‘for-profit’ health care.

Hearkening back to world wars, Canadian industry is being asked to retool to produce the ventilators and other equipment needed to treat COVID-19 victims, along with equipment to protect health-care workers valiantly risking their health to save others.

I’m sure industry will do everything possible to respond. But why, two weeks after Canada’s first COVID-19 case was identified on Jan. 25, did the government sent 16 tonnes of that same personal protective equipment to China? And isn’t it ironic that the private sector is being asked to make up for the failure of a government monopoly ideologically opposed to its involvement?

Dr. Andy Thompson, a respected rheumatologist with Ontario’s Arva Clinic and an associate professor of Medicine at Western University in London, Ont., publishes a daily blog sourcing data from national health authorities that compares the spread of COVID-19 in Italy, Spain, Germany, France, U.K., U.S. and Canada. The comparisons are alarming for Canadians.

Because countries are at various stages of the pandemic, the comparison standard is from the date that 150 cases are detected. For Canada, that day was March 12. By March 30, Canada had 7,708 confirmed and probable cases, making our cases per million population about the same as the U.S. and Italy at their 150-case mark. As of March 30, cases were doubling every four days. If that rate continues, our cases will become 92,496 in just two weeks.

And here’s where our lack of available treatment capacity comes into stark perspective. At the 150-case mark, Canada ranked second highest in cases per hospital bed behind overwhelmed Spain.

Canada’s doctors, nurses and other health-care workers are world class and highly dedicated. We know they will risk their health doing everything possible even as they face an egregious lack of facilities and equipment.

They deserve our support, consideration and admiration.

But once this crisis is behind us, Canadians must demand that Canada’s hopelessly dysfunctional and dangerous government-monopoly health-care system be opened to private sector competition, like every other country in the world.

Gwyn Morgan is a retired Canadian business leader who has been a director of five global corporations.