Hospital Capacity II: How Prepared is Canada?

Following up on our model projecting hospital capacity in communities throughout the United States, we have a new model out that provides similar assessments for Canada. It was developed by a team of health system researchers at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto and our team here at the Harvard Global Health Institute and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in collaboration with the Canadian broadcaster CBC.

CBC News Coverage: Some hospitals across Canada could face significant shortage of ICU beds, projections reveal

As Canada prepares for a surge of COVID-19 patients, we take a closer look at regional variations in hospital capacity across the country. Our model builds on the Public Health Agency of Canada’s latest projections, as well as the most recent publicly available data from CIHI with respect to regional hospital bed capacity. The goal is to provide the public, health care leaders, and policy makers with important local estimates on the number of available acute care beds and the ICU beds needed to accommodate COVID-19 cases over the coming months.  

There have been excellent predictions by numerous research groups and public health agencies underscoring the importance of physical distancing and the need for increased health care capacity.  By pulling this information together, we hope to underscore which regions could be particularly stressed at a more local level if coronavirus infections continue to rise over the next few months.

Hospitalization and ICU utilization rates in this model are based on data from Imperial College across 7 different age groups. We also account for the significant efforts by hospitals to lower occupancy rates and have used the latest numbers where reported. The potential infection rates used are scenarios provided by Public Health Agency of Canada under strong epidemic controls. It is important to note that we have not accounted for a dynamic surge that will likely impact regions differently over time and season. This is important as it might mean that to accommodate any peaks in demand, the true resource needs could be even higher more immediately.

We hope these estimates help highlight areas of potential need in times of uncertainty. There are no perfect projections, and we hope that emerging models provide even better information as more and more data is available.

The Data

How will “flattening the curve” actually play out over four months in hospitals systems across Canada? What if 2.5% of the population contracts COVID-19? 5%? Even 10%?

Here is the CBC’s project explaining the numbers.

Here is the Full Model