Health & Wellness

ER Visits Are Down During the Pandemic

If you have a medical emergency, you should go to the ER


Fewer patients are presenting at emergency rooms across Canada as people avoid hospitals out of a fear of contracting COVID-19.

In British Columbia, 6,559 people visited emergency rooms on March 9, but four weeks later, on April 6, that number was down to 2,995, the province’s Health Minister Adrian Dix said. And in Ontario, emergency rooms are seeing anywhere between 20% to 50% less traffic, the National Post reported in mid-April.

Dr. Abdu Sharkawy, an infectious disease specialist with Toronto’s University Health Network, told CTV that those with serious problems, such as those with suspected heart attacks or strokes, should continue visiting the ER.

“People shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that they should still seek the emergency room if they are acutely in distress,” he said. “It should never be discouraged based on any degree of concern that the health-care system is under strain.” Health Minister Dix made the same point at a recent press conference, saying that it’s still safe to go to the hospital.

And people may be getting the message. On May 4, nine of Montreal’s ERs were either overcrowded or nearing that level, and the Jewish General Hospital’s ER was at 100% capacity after being at only 50% capacity over the past few weeks.

As long as a hospital is adequately creating “hot and cold” zones to separate those with COVID-19 symptoms from others, the ER can be a safe environment—certainly safer than a trip to the grocery store or taking public transit, given that staff screen for fever and other COVID-19 symptoms before allowing patients to come inside. (It’s important to visit a specifically designated COVID-19 assessment centre if you believe you may have contracted the virus.)

Photo: iStock/FamVeld.