Infection control measures instituted during SARS outbreak did not lead to more deaths in GTA, study finds

    TORONTO, June 28 /CNW/ - While unprecedented infection control measures
during the 2003 SARS outbreak in Toronto limited access to medical care in the
Greater Toronto Area (GTA), the city's overall death rate did not spike,
according to a study led by St. Michael's Hospital physicians.
    "Despite a prolonged period of intense clinical service restrictions, we
found no significant change in mortality rates compared with corresponding
periods in previous years," the study found. "The widespread limitation of
access to medical services did not appear to have any short-term effects on
deaths within the population."
    The observational study, published in the peer-reviewed journal BMC
Public Health, examined population mortality during the SARS outbreak using
death registry data, census data, and statistical analysis of mortality rates
from 2001-2003. No significant change was seen in the mortality rate in the
GTA, before, during and after the SARS outbreak compared to 2001 and 2002.
    During the outbreak, infection control practices lead to the closure of
four hospitals, the cancellation of all non-emergency surgical services,
postponement of most outpatient clinics, and limited access to physicians,
diagnostic testing and hospital laboratories.
    "Previous studies looking at events such as physicians' strikes had
suggested that decreased access to health care could have substantial health
effects on the population," explained lead author Dr. Stephen Hwang. "Our data
indicates the opposite - during SARS, patients with severe illnesses retained
the ability to access life-saving services."
    This finding provides useful insight into the management of future
outbreaks of influenza or other infectious diseases, contributing author and
St. Michael's Hospital physician Dr. Chaim Bell said.
    "The health-care system must have a co-ordinated response to infectious
disease outbreaks that balances infection control practices with the need to
maintain access to critical services," he said. "Developing a data capture and
reporting system ahead of an outbreak would equip decision-makers with timely
information that could help determine what services should be prioritized."

For further information:

For further information: Julie Saccone, Media Relations, St. Michael's
Hospital, (416) 864-5047, Or The public relations
department at (416) 864-5034

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