MONTREAL -- A health advocacy board is warning the province that it could use all possible legal means to prevent the use of a prioritization protocol in intensive care units during extreme levels of occupation.

During a press conference on Jan. 12, Assistant Deputy Health Minister Dr. Lucie Opatrny said that the increase in the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations had weakened hospitals to where there could be significantly more intensive care patients than beds available.

Opatrny said simulations on a triage protocol for access to intensive care were already taking place, and that this protocol could be used in the following weeks.

Under the proposed protocol, patients may need to be triaged for access to the ICU, meaning not everyone would get a spot.

On Jan. 11, there were more than 1,400 hospitalizations related to COVID-19 in Quebec; that number fell to 1,324 on Tuesday, Jan. 26.

However, the Conseil pour la protection des malades (CPM) provided recommendations for the government to avoid further overcrowding.

These recommendations include offering permanent and full-time positions to part-time nurses, increasing the pace of elective interventions that have become urgent, inviting retired physicians to return, and asking specialists who work in non-essential areas to work in intensive care.

The president of the Council, Paul Brunet, said the possibility of resorting to the national triage protocol has sown concern in the health community.

In a letter sent Tuesday to ministers Christian Dubé, Lionel Carmant and Marguerite Blais, Brunet requested that the province hold a debate on the protocol and its application.

-- This report from the Canadian Press was first published on Jan 27, 2021.