The COVID-19 pandemic revealed an urgent need for planning tools to help manage increased pressure on hospital systems. To help decision-makers better plan for the pandemic, the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) developed the COVID-19 Health System Capacity Planning Tool.

This article, published in the International Journal of Population Data Science (IJPDS), provides an overview of the development of the tool, its components, and required data inputs. It also illustrates how the tool can be used by providing examples using data from Ontario.

"Within weeks of the first case of COVID-19 being reported in Canada, our team started developing a model to estimate the potential surge in ICU beds and ventilators resulting from the potential uptick of COVID-19 cases in the country”, said Olga Krylova, Program Lead at CIHI. “Since then, the model has been expanded significantly and it has evolved into a highly adaptable and easy-to-use tool.”

Designed for users with different levels of knowledge, the tool uses the same underlying Susceptible, Exposed, Infected, Removed (SEIR) mathematical model as most other tools. It is built in Microsoft Excel with data inputs, outputs, and visualizations that are simple to understand, modify, and adapt to local contexts. By entering local data, health system planners can use the tool to:

  • Fit hospitalizations and ICU cases and explore how public health interventions influenced the COVID-19 reproduction number and case counts
  • Project a potential epidemic trajectory and subsequent demand for acute and critical care beds, ventilators, health human resources, and personal protective equipment needed to care for patients with COVID-19
  • Create and compare different scenarios to help planning for surges in health resource demands and supply shortfalls associated with COVID-19

The tool has been successfully used to make operational decisions and inform the public about potential scenarios by provincial health ministries, public health departments, and hospitals across Canada. The tool continues to evolve to reflect changes in our understanding of SARS-CoV-2 transmission as new variants of concern emerge and new treatments and vaccination rollouts offer hope for defeating this virus.

The tool is available upon request from


Click here to read the full open access article

Dr. Olga Krylova, Program Lead – Advanced Analytics Branch, Canadian Institute for Health Information, Ottawa, Canada. Olga is also an Adjunct Professor at the School of Epidemiology and Public Health at the University of Ottawa, Canada.

Krylova, O., Kazmi, O., Wang, H., Lim, K., Logar-Henderson, C. and Gapanenko, K. (2020) “Estimating surge in COVID-19 cases, hospital resources and PPE demand with the interactive and locally-informed COVID-19 Health System Capacity Planning Tool”, International Journal of Population Data Science, 5(4). Available at: (Accessed: 5 April 2022).