‘Like a tsunami:’ B.C. health workers speak out as coronavirus concerns rise

Click to play video: 'RCH physicians call on B.C.’s top doctor to enforce social distancing'
RCH physicians call on B.C.’s top doctor to enforce social distancing
Some 60 doctors from Royal Columbian Hospital are calling on provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry to close non-essential businesses and enforce the need for critical social distancing to flatten the curve of COVID-19. Kristen Robinson reports – Mar 21, 2020

As he walks through the emergency department of Richmond Hospital, Dr. Steven Fedder says he can’t stop thinking about what might be coming.

“What I see coming toward us is a massive wave of patient need,” he said. “This is like a tsunami.”

The emergency physician is just one of many frontline health-care workers speaking out as the directive to practise social distancing continues to be ignored.

Fedder warns that Canada is on the same trajectory as countries like Italy, which just saw its death toll related to COVID-19 climb to 6,077. He wants the public to understand that the two health-care systems are similar and hospitals here could soon be in an equally dire situation.

“They’re suffering so horrendously and I see the potential that if we don’t act now … it’s coming here. We’re not going to avoid it.”

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Nurses are also posting pictures on social media holding signs that read, “I’ve stayed at work for you. You stay at home for us.”

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The movement from frontline medical staff comes at a time when the public is trying to show its gratitude for their efforts. Every evening at 7 p.m., residents in Vancouver’s West End neighbourhood and beyond are taking to their backyards and balconies and offering applause and cheers for health-care workers.

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While the appreciation is welcome, doctors and nurses say true thanks must come in the form of more action to flatten the COVID-19 curve.

“The concern about numerous people coming in and needing to ration care and [an] inability to provide the care I need to provide — that’s scary to me,” Fedder says.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry is asking the public not only to listen to health-care workers, but to obey social-distancing rules for them.

“Those community measures we’re taking are incredibly important to protect our nurses, our doctors, our care aides — the people who work in all of our health-care facilities,” she told a recent news conference.

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Unlike a tsunami, Fedder says the public has been given clear warnings for weeks. He says it’s hard to comprehend why people would still wade into the water knowing about the danger that’s on the way.

“What we need is slow ripples, so our health-care system can expand and provide the resources we need.”

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