Being a doctor or a nurse isn’t easy these days. Being prepared for the invisible enemy called coronavirus is making work extra challenging for people in medical professions. An added level of stress for medical people has been ongoing concerns over the availability of protective equipment and further — ventilation devices for patients.
In late March, Dr. Melissa Yuan-Innes, an emergency room physician at Glengarry Memorial Hospital launched an online petition (https://www.change.org/p/justin-trudeau-protect-our-front-line-health-care-workers-against-covid-19) asking Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and federal Minister of Health Patty Hajdu requesting certain measures be taken to ensure those supplies are available for patient care and the protection of personnel.
As of Monday night, the petition had 185,121 signatures.
Yuan-Innes said that many of the petition’s objectives have been met and that federal and provincial agencies are following the “blueprint” it suggested.
That blueprint included repurposing domestic manufacturing and skilled workers to produce equipment for the health care sector, requesting donations of items, using existing stock more safely by finding ways to reuse it, using stock leftover from the 2003 SARS epidemic, buying equipment from other countries, expanding COVID-19 testing and treatment, and repurposing distilleries to manufacture hand sanitizer.
The only suggestion in the petition that has not been followed was for the government to increase the manufacturing of antiviral medications that could potentially treat COVID-19 but are backordered and whose effectiveness has not yet been proven.
Yuan-Innes said that self-isolation for everyone should also be compulsory and legislated under law, adding that warnings to physically distance and self-isolate are not enough to stop community spread.
Yuan-Innes said she and her colleagues are bracing for an increase in patients.
“Many of us in the emergency room had noticed fewer patients coming in as people tried to stay home, but that has ebbed, and it’s only a matter of time before increasingly sick COVID-19 patients need care, and we still have heart attacks and other medical crises to attend,” she said.
Yuan-Innes noted that up to 80 per cent of the people who have COVID-19 feel “quite well” and may not realize they are spreading the disease to others.
“The only sure-fire way to prevent this is to avoid it by staying home and avoiding any interaction,” she said.
Nathalie Mainville, who is originally from the St-Isidore area, is a nurse at the Ottawa Hospital.
She said that for the past week, nurses must always wear masks while in the patient care area. They are permitted to use two masks per shift, which means they cannot have food or drinks on their breaks, which is not always easy.
“That is very hard on most of the nurses, but we are health care workers, and this is what we sign up for to protect and care for our patients like they’re our own family,” said Mainville.
She was thankful that so far, no staff members had tested positive for COVID-19 at the location she works at. However, she did say there were approximately 12 COVID-19 patients at the facility.