Montreal hospitals

Ontario has declared a state of emergency — will Quebec follow?

Infectious disease specialist Matthew Oughton commented on how the Jewish General Hospital is coping and how non-severe cases of COVID-19 should be treated.

With the declaration of a state of emergency in Ontario by Premier Doug Ford this morning, one wonders if Quebec will soon follow. CTV News spoke with Matthew Oughton, an infectious disease specialist at the Jewish General Hospital, to ask how Quebec hospitals are dealing with COVID-19.

“It is possible, as a means of organizing and accessing more resources — I can certainly see it coming,” Oughton said, when asked about whether Quebec will declare a state of emergency. “We have certainly seen it happen, not only in Ontario, but in other jurisdictions in the U.S. and Canada.

“At this hospital, we are keeping up,” he added. “The storm is brewing and the storm is building, and I think we are going to see more and more cases over the many days and probably weeks to come. So we are all gearing up for this as much as we can. This is a time in which we have to move very quickly, as quickly as the virus is spreading, so that we can be prepared to meet the needs of all of our population.”

When asked what he meant by “gearing up,” Oughton explained, “Trying to mobilize the resources towards handing patients who have confirmed cases or are under investigation for COVID-19. That means eliminating the risk to both outpatient and healthcare providers as much as possible. So, greatly reducing the activity of outpatient clinics that are based in the hospital, which means things like delaying or postponing elective surgeries. That means having plans in place for what’s going to happen if you have a large number of patients concentrated in one area of the hospital, be that the emergency room, medical wards, even the ICU. We have to be ready now for what is to come soon.”

Oughton said that most people who test positive at Quebec hospitals like the Jewish General will be sent home to self-isolate. “This is still a disease that for the large majority of people who get sick with it, the symptoms are relatively mild, and very similar to all of the usual seasonal respiratory viral symptoms that we all know: fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, things like that. People who have these symptoms that are not severe and definitely look after themselves at home, keep themselves well-hydrated, monitoring if their symptoms do progress, then they can contact health authorities and we can reevaluate. But most people who get [COVID-19] will recover from it in a reasonable time frame. It’s just a question of getting through it.”

As for what people who catch the virus should treat themselves with, Oughton had some interesting advice about commonly used painkillers.

“There’s been some talk about the possibility that Ibuprofen (Advil) may or may not be a poor choice, particularly for this infection, and this is still very preliminary. At the present time, if I had a choice, I would be using over-the-counter acetaminophen (Tylenol) first and foremost for the usual fevers, aches and pains. There have been some reports, and these are just observations — not at all firmly established in the medical literature — that there have been concerns expressed by some physicians, most notably in France, that patients who take ibuprofen tend to do more poorly than patients taking acetaminophen. This is something that everyone is obviously paying close attention to, and I can’t at all say that this is a proven statement. So I would say that if you needed to take something at the present time, with that level of information and you had the choice, I would probably choose to go with Tylenol (acetaminophen), over ibuprofen, until this data gets more firmly examined and either confirmed or refuted.” ■

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