Coronavirus: Former health minister Jane Philpott assists at COVID-19 testing centre

Jane Philpott (left) and a fellow health-care worker helping at Markham Stouffville Hospital's COVID-19 assessment centre. Supplied

After spending years in federal politics, former health minister Jane Philpott has returned to her physician roots, once again donning her white coat and stethoscope to help in the fight against the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19.

“As a family doctor, your skills come back to you very quickly,” said Philpott.

“It’s like getting on a bicycle: as soon as you put that stethoscope on, you know what to do with it.”

Philpott is one of the hundreds of Canadian health-care workers who have answered the call to assist with the growing number of novel coronavirus cases in the country. Provinces have asked anyone with relevant experience to help ease the pressure on health-care workers during the pandemic.

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The former member of Parliament, who served from 2015 to 2019, says she’s working at the Markham Stouffville Hospital’s COVID-19 assessment centre. Philpott describes the centre as a trailer set up outside the health facility where people who have been pre-screened are tested for the novel coronavirus using a nasopharyngeal swab.

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“The first day the assessment centre opened, it was very, very busy with long lineups,” said Philpott.

“We saw about 170 or 180 patients a day in the first few days. We’ll see what this week brings. Everyone has [a] sense the numbers are going to increase.”

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The former MP described the mood at the hospital and around the COVID-19 testing trailer as “calm.”

“I would say it’s extraordinarily serene and steady,” said Philpott.

“The patients themselves are relatively calm, but there are some that had a real anxiety or fear in their minds… they recognize their symptoms are very suggestive of COVID[-19].”
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Philpott expressed some concern over the pressure on the health-care system and its workers but noted they are working short, five-hour shifts because of the intensity of the job at hand.

She also commended all hospital staff and workers for their tireless efforts in the fight against COVID-19.

Philpott served as an MP for Markham-Stouffville for four years, holding several cabinet posts before stepping down from her ministerial duties — she most recently served as president of the Treasury Board — over the prime minister’s handling of the SNC-Lavalin affair.

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She ran in the 2019 federal election as an Independent candidate but lost.

Philpott has since accepted a position as the dean of Queen’s University’s faculty of health sciences, but the job doesn’t begin until July.

“I will [help] at least until the end of June, if I’m needed for that long,” she said.

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