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‘A lot of uncertainty’ about protective equipment during COVID-19 pandemic, doctors say

COVID-19: ‘A lot of uncertainty’ about protective equipment, N.B., N.S. doctors say
Abstract: Doctors in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick say they're concerned about adequate supply of protective medical equipment, especially when the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise. As Callum Smith reports, one doctor says that could have a crippling impact if there isn't enough supply.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Health Organization has warned of equipment shortages for medical professionals.

The president of the New Brunswick Medical Society says doctors are now raising concerns about the availability of personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks and gowns.

“We’re hearing concerns from our members, physicians, who are working either in their offices privately or in the hospitals, as well as other healthcare workers, nurses… around the availability of PPEs in the hospitals and outside in the offices,” said Dr. Chris Goodyear, who is also a general surgeon and intensivist at the Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital in Fredericton.

READ MORE: Canadian doctors call for smarter use of medical gear amid supply concerns

Goodyear says it’s important to make sure PPE is only used as required, following guidelines from Canada’s chief public health officer.

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“There’s a lot of uncertainty in terms of the availability of these PPEs going forward as we see the [cases] increase,” he told Global News.

There are no shortages of equipment in hospitals, he said, although the situation is different for private practice physicians.

Coronavirus outbreak: New Brunswick investigating 1st possible community spread case among 12 newly confirmed
Coronavirus outbreak: New Brunswick investigating 1st possible community spread case among 12 newly confirmed

Dr. Hubert Dupuis, a family doctor and the president of Égalité santé en français, says “you’re lucky if you had some stock in before.”

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“Apart from that, it’s very, very hard to get any equipment,” he says.

Dupuis says many appointments are either virtual or non-essential ones are being canceled in order to help keep people away from doctor’s offices.

That makes PPE less of a priority, he said.

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“Pretty quickly we’re not going to have to any PPE stock left,” he said. “It’s going to be a problem.”

Dupuis says if those concerns aren’t addressed, the issues will escalate if doctor’s offices are forced to close.

“What will happen,” he says, “is that the emergency rooms will then get a whole lot of patients that probably should not be there because they’re not sick enough, and mostly, in this COVID-19 situation, they really should not be there.”

READ MORE: As coronavirus cases rise, Canada’s top doctor says health system coping for now

According to Doctors Nova Scotia, similar concerns have been raised about supply issues in that province.

“Certainly, gowns and masks and sanitizers have been a big issue,” said Kevin Chapman, Doctor Nova Scotia’s director of partnerships and innovation.

“Folks are worried supplies are not going to be available when they’re needed.”

Chapman says doctors are having webinar meetings frequently with public health officials and the Nova Scotia Health Authority, which allows for concerns to be addressed and questions to be answered.

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs said Friday a centralized approach to maintaining equipment will help reduce internal competition to make sure everyone has what’s needed.

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“We will ensure that we have enough medical equipment, that includes face masks, gloves, respirators and ventilators.”

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.