When it comes to ventilators per capita, Ontario's near the bottom

Ontario has roughly 12 ventilators per 100,000 people, placing it near the bottom of the 10 Canadian provinces during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Province has only 12 ventilators per 100,000 people

Dr. Kathryn Suh of the Ottawa Hospital explains how a tube on a ventilator would be used to treat a patient suffering from respiratory complications from coronavirus. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

Ontario has roughly a dozen ventilators per 100,000 people, putting it near the bottom of Canada's 10 provinces during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A spokesperson for the province's Ministry of Health told Radio-Canada Monday, after several requests, that until recently, Ontario had 1,300 hospital beds equipped with a ventilator. Another 210 beds equipped with ventilators are in its emergency reserve.

The province received 300 more last week, which brings the total to 1,810 beds altogether. 

Given Ontario's population was about 14.7 million at the end of 2019, that works out to about 12 ventilators per 100,000 people. 

Quebec, on the other hand, has the highest ratio in the country. The province has approximately 35 ventilators per 100,000 residents. 

In typical circumstances, however, about 80 per cent of ventilator capacity is taken up by emergency hospitalizations unrelated to COVID-19.

That means the actual capacity for COVID-19 patients in Ontario is actually closer to two to three ventilators for 100,000 people.

The ratios are based on figures from provincial health departments and ministers released over the last week, up to Monday.

Ventilators help people breathe when they are having trouble doing it on their own. They're especially important now, given that COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that can seriously affect the lungs.

The Public Health Agency of Canada says six per cent of the country's confirmed COVID cases have required hospitalization, while two per cent have required intensive care.

A recent study by some of Ontario's leading medical researchers suggested Ontario will run out of intensive care beds and ventilators in late April, even if the province manages to cut last week's infection rates in half. 

Private sector help

Premier Doug Ford said Tuesday the government is working hard to make sure Ontario hospitals have enough medical supplies. That includes reaching out to the private sector for help.

His government also said it's allocating medical equipment to hospitals where it's most needed.

But Ontario NDP health critic France Gélinas told Radio-Canada the Ford government's responses are a sign the health-care system is underfunded.

Medical staff members check a ventilator in protective suits inside the Koranyi National Institute of Pulmonology in Budapest, Hungary, on Tuesday. (Zoltan Balogh/The Associated Press)

"We ask our hospitals to function like superheroes all the time," she said in French. "The government has never invested to keep up with the growth of the population."

Critical Care Services Ontario, a government body that was formed out of the SARS outbreak, said in a recent report the province set up its ventilator reserve in 2010 with 216 machines — which is actually six more than it has now, a decade later.

The Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario also said in a news release Wednesday the province should buy enough ventilators for the worst-case scenario and sell any it doesn't end up using to other jurisdictions.

As of Wednesday morning, Ontario had 688 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with nine deaths.

Dr. Barbara Yaffe, the province's assistant chief medical officer of health, said that as of Wednesday afternoon, 17 COVID-19 patients are in intensive care units. Fifteen of them are on ventilators.

Eight cases involving patients who've now tested negative for coronavirus twice in a row are considered resolved.

With files from Radio-Canada's Yasmine Mehdi

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