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Coronavirus: Health systems ramping up to prepare for possible influx of patients

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While Canadians stay home in an effort to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus, officials are working behind the scenes to try to increase the health care system’s capacity to fight the virus.

For more than a week, health officials have urged Canadians to “flatten the curve,” by staying home and keeping a distance between themselves and others to slow down the spread of the virus.

The idea is to spread out the number of cases so health care capacity isn’t overwhelmed all at once.

But there’s a second half to that equation: while Canadians are flattening the curve, health care systems need to simultaneously increase their capacity.

“We’ve done it before. The health care system does it annually with the seasonal flu. We do have the ability to respond to surges,” said Dr. Gigi Osler, president of the Canadian Medical Association.

“What concerns me is the possibility of the surge greater than one we’ve seen before.”

The race to fortify the health care system started amid the first rumblings of the novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China, earlier this year.

“We have been working with provinces and territories to boost our capacity and to understand what demands would be placed on the health care system if we were to see the same type of curve that we were seeing first in China and then later in Italy and Iran,” Health Minister Patty Hajdu said in a briefing Tuesday.

Already some provinces have started cancelling elective surgeries and procedures to free up precious hospital beds and other supplies.

The federal public health agency has also been co-ordinating the purchase of vital supplies like test kits, protective equipment like masks and gloves, and ventilators, said chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam.

READ MORE: Coronavirus — Trudeau says House of Commons expected to reconvene for emergency measures

“All of those things together help improve and increase that line that you saw, that you want to get that curve under,” she said.

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