Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); }
Coronavirus information
Coronavirus information
The Zero Canada Project provides resources to help you make the most of staying home.
Visit the hub

A man wears a protective face mask as he walks past the emergency department of the Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster, B.C., on April 3, 2020.

The Canadian Press

Health care providers are warning of an unseen toll COVID-19 could take if people die because they are too afraid to go to an emergency room for serious health issues unrelated to the pandemic.

“There’s going to be secondary harm. Make no mistake,” said Dr. Alan Drummond with the Canadian Federation of Emergency Physicians.

“To what extent has this been happening? We don’t know. It will probably only be quantified after the fact. Then we will start to get a sense of the hidden costs of this pandemic.”

Story continues below advertisement

There have been major changes in health care delivery to prepare for an expected surge of people ill with COVID-19. Doctors are connecting with patients virtually, elective surgeries are being cancelled or delayed, and hospitals are reallocating staff.

That has created more capacity to care for infected patients, but Drummond emphasizes it has also ensured that everyday health care emergencies can still be treated.

A pandemic doesn’t stop heart attacks, strokes, serious falls and seizures, said Drummond, who works in Perth, Ont. Yet many people who would normally visit a doctor to check what could be serious symptoms are choosing not to seek help, he said.

Drummond said doctors are noticing that emergency rooms across the country are quieter and, when people do come in, too often the situation is already dire.

“I lost the battle to save a patient last night because they waited too long to come to the hospital,” Dr. Jeff Shaw, a cardiologist in Calgary, posted on Twitter earlier this week.

“I know there is a lot of fear of hospitals now and concern about being turned away. If you are sick and need help, hospitals are safe and are ready to look after you.”

Drummond said physicians have told him about patients who finally do come to hospital and say they are worried about catching COVID-19. They also voice two other concerns.

Story continues below advertisement

“They are scared to death and they are panic-stricken about … coming to the emergency department and placing an unnecessary burden on the emergency health system or … are worried they may be inadvertently transmitting COVID to staff despite the screening efforts.”

Health officials in British Columbia reminded people in a daily briefing this week that it’s safe to go to a hospital, get diagnostic tests and call 911 for urgent medical care. They noted there were about 3,600 emergency room visits on Tuesday, down from more than 6,500 on March 9.

“It is safe to go to the hospital, and there will be people there to help you,” urged B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix.

Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief public health officer, echoed the concern in one of his briefings. He said colleagues are telling him that patients are feeling apprehensive about getting the help they need and show up at a hospital when the situation is already critical.

“I really want to make it clear to Manitobans that our hospitals, our health care systems, are safe to utilize,” Roussin said.

Quebec’s health department has also said there is a significant decline in its emergency department traffic.

Story continues below advertisement

Hospitals are safe and people should call their physician or 911 if they are concerned something is wrong, Drummond said.

He understands that can be scary when the world around us has changed so drastically because of the pandemic. But the longer someone waits for treatment, the more serious the outcome can be. Too often, he said, the delay can be deadly.

“We don’t want people dying out of a false sense of contribution to the greater societal good.”


Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

In the interests of public health and safety, our coronavirus news articles are free for anyone to access. However, The Globe depends on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe to globeandmail.com. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support.

Your subscription helps The Globe and Mail provide readers with critical news at a critical time. Thank you for your continued support. We also hope you will share important coronavirus news articles with your friends and family. In the interest of public health and safety, all our coronavirus news articles are free for anyone to access.

Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies