Friday, March 13, 2020
Covid-19: How To Prevent Our Hospitals From Collapsing
The great Canadian cartoonist Michael de Adder drew that one seventeen years ago, during the SARS outbreak. But it works just as well today.
For it reflects what many people all over Canada are feeling about the latest killer virus, Covid-19, as it keeps ramping up.
Shock. Fear. Panic. Stunned confusion. Madness.
But as for me, I just hope Canadians can be made to understand one of the biggest lessons of SARS:
Protect our hospitals and health workers, or watch a pandemic turn into a living nightmare.
During the SARS crisis the virus was able to make its way into some hospitals, and as a result almost fifty percent of those infected were health care workers. Some departments and hospitals had to be shutdown over and over again.
If anything near the same thing happens with the much larger Covid-19 threat, the whole system could collapse.
And the best way to try to ensure that doesn't happen is by flattening this curve...
I know we have all heard that message over and over again, but it's so important. If we can't do what we absolutely must do, we really could see hospitals collapse like they already are in Italy.
The mayor of one town complained that doctors were forced to decide not to treat the very old, leaving them to die. In another town, patients with coronavirus-caused pneumonia were being sent home. Elsewhere, a nurse collapsed with her mask on, her photograph becoming a symbol of overwhelmed medical staff.
We could risk ending up in this Italian doctor's nightmare world.
“The war has literally exploded and battles are uninterrupted day and night. But now that need for beds has arrived in all its drama. One after the other the departments that had been emptied fill up at an impressive pace.
“The boards with the names of the patients, of different colors depending on the operating unit, are now all red and instead of surgery you see the diagnosis, which is always the damned same: bilateral interstitial pneumonia.”
“Cases are multiplying, we arrive at a rate of 15-20 admissions per day all for the same reason. The results of the swabs now come one after the other: positive, positive, positive. Suddenly the E.R. is collapsing.”
As well as forcing doctors to make the most brutal of choices.
Today, Italy has 10,149 cases of the coronavirus. There are now simply too many patients for each one of them to receive adequate care. Doctors and nurses are unable to tend to everybody. They lack machines to ventilate all those gasping for air.
Those who are too old to have a high likelihood of recovery, or who have too low a number of “life-years” left even if they should survive, will be left to die.
It's a depressing thought, but it doesn't have to be as bad as that in Canada, as long as we can act like Canadians should.
Flatten that curve, protect hospitals and health workers...
And they will be there for us, if we ever need them.
So if you think you have been exposed, don't swarm emergency departments or doctors offices. Call ahead, or call public health numbers to find out where you can get tested.
Practice social distancing, avoid crowds.
Try not to panic...
Try to cling to your sense of humour.
And remember, if Italians can sing about their predicament, dammit so can we...