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COVID-19: Despite optimism, Delta ER doctor warns of current strain on frontline workers


Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 in B.C. remain high

Delta ER doctor hopeful vaccines will help B.C. get COVID-19 under control in months ahead

ER doctor says stress on frontline workers continues amid health crisis

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – We’ve heard some optimism that May could be a turning point for the pandemic in Canada as vaccination programs rev up across the country. But hospitalizations are still high in many regions, including B.C., and many healthcare workers remain under a tremendous amount of strain.

Doctor Michael Curry, an emergency physician at Delta Hospital, says there is some hope when looking at the weeks and months ahead. However, right now, he says ERs and especially intensive care units are under a lot of pressure from COVID-19, dealing with cases of serious illness and death from the virus.

“Burnout is a big issue, and definitely the inability to engage in the social things that we would normally do, like taking a vacation. Things like that, I think really put people in a mode where we’re much more focused on work because we don’t have access to the recreational activities we would normally have access to,” he told NEWS 1130.

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“I think that combination of social isolation, overwork to take care of people in the intensive care unit environment, and also the concerns that we have about how long this is going to last is really putting a strain on people that are working in our critical care environments,” Curry added.

He notes community support has faded somewhat, but says there is peer support — people helping each other to get through tough moments — especially among staff working with COVID-19 patients in ICUs.

The impact the pandemic has had on health-care workers was once again brought into the spotlight in April after a nurse in Abbotsford detailed an emotional experience losing a COVID-19 patient.

The poignant account highlighted what many frontline workers are dealing with on a day-to-day basis, with the Canadian Nurses Association saying the health crisis has piled on to what’s been an already difficult time for many in the sector.

Another B.C. doctor, who sees patients at Delta Hospital and Mount Saint Joseph Hospital, previously told NEWS 1130 that the stress on physicians has been cumulative.

Vaccines and hope in the months ahead

Curry is hopeful vaccinations will mean a precipitous drop in cases in the months ahead.

“In the long run, I have a lot of hope. I think that as our vaccine penetrance and the takeup in the community increases we are going to see big change in what we’re dealing with,” he explained.

“Is it going to happen this month? I really hope so. And we did notice in the U.S., that’s several weeks to months ahead of us in vaccinations, their COVID rate did drop fairly precipitously. Whether that’s going to be this month, next month, maybe July, I’m not certain. But I would say by the end of the summer, by early fall, unless there’s a big change in the virus or a new development we’re not aware of, we’re going to be much more in control of the situation than we are now.”

While the number of people in hospital in B.C. due to the coronavirus decreased slightly from Friday, the province reported on Monday there were 474 patients in care, with 176 of them in the ICU.

However, despite the slight decrease, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix noted the number was still far too high.

-With files from Monika Gul, Liza Yuzda, and Lisa Steacy