Emergency department visits down 25 per cent in early weeks of pandemic: report


TORONTO — A new report finds emergency department visits dropped by 25 percent in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Canadian Institute for Health Information found 318,000 fewer visits took place in March 2020, compared to March 2019.

The drop was even more pronounced in the last week of March, when visits dropped by 49 percent. This coincided with travel restrictions and the closure of schools and daycares across much of Canada.

The largest reduction in visits was among less urgent patients, down 29 percent across Canada.

But seriously ill or injured patients, such as those who required resuscitation, were also down by 14 percent.

Analysts say the numbers confirm anecdotal reports that there have been fewer emergency hospital visits for issues other than COVID-19.

“When we compare to last year, it’s clear that many Canadians avoided visiting emergency departments in the initial weeks of the pandemic, which may have had serious consequences for some patients,” Greg Webster, CIHI’s director of acute and ambulatory care information services, said Monday in a release.

The data revealed there were 20,427 visits on March 31, 2020 compared to 40,803 visits on March 31, 2019.

The findings are based on more than 80 percent of emergency department visits reported to CIHI.


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