While the world is focussed on COVID-19, other illnesses have not gone away.

On Wednesday, Health Minister Christine Elliott said that — based on modelling — 35 people have died due to having their heart procedures cancelled over COVID-19.

Those heart procedures would be among the 52,000 cancelled surgeries in Ontario.

What’s been dubbed the “collateral damage” from COVID-19 is staggering.

Cardiac and cancer patients will die without the care they need, and so will people waiting for transplants and other interventions. So will those who fear COVID-19 so much they hesitate to go to the emergency room despite dire symptoms.

Others will become chronically ill.

Italy and Spain both report an uptick in deaths related to an overall lack of access to medical care during the pandemic. So did China, back at the beginning of the outbreak.

There are several health crises that will be ignited or exacerbated by COVID-19.

Frontline health-care workers, meanwhile, continue to become infected themselves with COVID-19, even as they cope with the burnout that comes with this crisis. As their numbers are depleted, other health issues get worse.

And it’s not just health workers directly involved with COVID-19 patients who are feeling the stress.

Dr. Sebastian Rodriguez is an orthopaedic surgeon at Humber River Hospital, the city’s second-busiest for COVID-19 patients. Rodriguez is a hip and knee specialist, and all his surgeries are cancelled for the time being.

Some of his patients are in excruciating pain.

Rodriguez says he doubts the huge backlog of postponed or cancelled surgeries in Ontario can ever be cleared. “That’s a crisis looming,”  he says.

Right now, he’s devising strategies to help patients cope with pain while they wait.

Once the province gives the go-ahead for elective surgery to resume, it’s likely that all patients will have to be tested for COVID-19 beforehand.

“The process, timing and administration of these tests has yet to be determined,” says Rodriguez. “There are logistical issues, in terms of where to administer these tests and the self-isolation requirements after —  as they depend on the turnaround time of testing as well as availability of the tests.”

There are discussions underway about the fact that “at-risk” patients may have to wait longer than others as efforts continue to minimize COVID-19 exposure.

“Those over 80, with compromised immune systems or with respiratory issues may have to wait a bit longer,” he says.

So as long as COVID-19 represents any sort of threat, that may hold true for other types of surgery, as well.

Another health-care worker (who prefers to remain nameless) says to expect increased addiction issues among those left to manage serious illness — mental or physical— on their own.

Of course, depression and anxiety are on the increase. Isolation and physical distancing are not the normal state for human beings; between health and economic worries, people are starting to unravel.

Finally, a new poll shows that Canadians are drinking more alcohol while in isolation, and it’s much more in some age groups. That vaccine can’t come soon enough.

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