Restrictions on the non-urgent use of hospital-based services that were imposed when a provincial health emergency was declared during the 2003 SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) outbreak in Toronto, Ontario, resulted in only modest reductions in overall admissions. In this study, Dr. Michael J. Schull and colleagues determined that restrictions on the non-urgent use of hospital-based services at 32 hospitals in the Greater Toronto Area resulted in a 12% decrease in admissions. The findings suggest that the ability of a health system to admit large numbers of affected patients during a future epidemic would be limited by continued high levels of hospital occupancy. For example, the 12% decrease in overall admissions seen during the SARS restrictions would only offset one-quarter of the number of additional admissions expected in an influenza pandemic in Toronto.
In a related Public Health commentary, Dr. Richard Schabas examines Canada’s new Quarantine Act and argues that it would be useful in only very limited circumstances.
Source:Canadian Medical Association Journal