A new report shows the heavy financial burden that COVID puts on Canada’s healthcare system.

Data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information found the estimated total cost of COVID-19 hospital stays in Canada was almost $1 billion in 2020–2021.

As well, costs tripled between November 2020 and March 2021.

The estimated average cost of an individual hospital stay for COVID is more than $23,000. This includes both intensive care unit and non-ICU admissions. 

The data also shows that a COVID-19 hospital stay costs about three times more than for heart attack ($7,000) or pneumonia ($8,000), four times more than the cost of a stay for influenza (approximately $5,000) and almost as much as a kidney transplant ($27,000). 

People who have COVID remain in the hospital about twice as long as the average pneumonia patient (15 days and seven days, respectively), and a larger proportion of them are admitted to the ICU and ventilated.

A COVID-19–related hospitalization with ICU admission is estimated to cost over $50,000 — more than 3 times the cost of a stay without ICU admission ($15,000).

By comparison, the average cost of an ICU admission for pneumonia is $22,000 and for heart attack is $8,400. 

Before the pandemic began, Canadian hospitals (excluding Quebec and Nunavut) spent more than $55 billion in 2019–2020. Compensation was the largest spending area at 64 percent, followed by supplies (11 percent). 

These figures reflect the most recent information available from April 1st, 2019, to March 31st, 2020. Cost estimates for COVID-19 and other common hospitalizations are forecasted values.

CIHI’s Nathalie Roberton says COVID patients tend to be sicker and to have longer hospital stays, adding “the data reinforces that the virus can cause a serious illness and not simply a bad flu.”

She added that one in four hospitalized COVID patients are admitted to the ICU and one in five die in the facility.