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‘I’ve got the illness’: B.C. ER doctor on life with COVID-19 and what comes next

Click to play video: 'Vancouver ER doc sick with COVID-19 warns British Columbians' Vancouver ER doc sick with COVID-19 warns British Columbians
A Vancouver emergency room doctor is warning anyone who believes COVID-19 is no big deal to think again. Dr. Joe Finkler says he did all the right things - wore protective gear and washed his hands between every patient-- and he still got sick. – Mar 31, 2020

A B.C. emergency doctor is sharing his experience of living with COVID-19.

Dr. Joe Finkler said he started feeling tired last week, something he attributed to working night shifts at the emergency department of St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver.

READ MORE: #BCHealthcareHeroes

A nagging cough that had been with him for some time worsened and his sense of smell and taste were affected, something he didn’t initially notice as he was used to wearing masks in the ER room.

“Those things crept up on me,” he said.

“It wasn’t until I felt really terrible on Thursday night and developed fever and chills and sweats and drenched my sheets that, yeah, I’ve got the illness.”

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Click to play video: 'Young Vancouver man sick with COVID-19 describes ordeal' Young Vancouver man sick with COVID-19 describes ordeal
Young Vancouver man sick with COVID-19 describes ordeal – Mar 25, 2020

None of his colleagues have tested positive for COVID-19.

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Finkler says he’s not sure how he got the novel coronavirus. He checked hospital records and found all the patients he admitted to hospital and other patients he screened were tested for COVID-19, and none came out positive.

“I never really touched a patient who was COVID-positive,” he said.

READ MORE: British Columbians share what it’s like having COVID-19

He says it’s possible someone who came in for something, like a sprained ankle or a laceration, didn’t get tested for coronavirus because they didn’t have respiratory issues and weren’t admitted to hospital.

“Part of the problem was the guidelines [for testing] were changing,” he said. “This was evolving.
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“I think everybody admits that this is a little bit like an iceberg. When you see an iceberg protruding or floating in the ocean, it’s about 15 per cent out of the water and about 85 per cent submerged.

“Nobody knows what’s hanging below.”

Click to play video: 'Emergency physician opens up about what it’s like on the inside during COVID-19' Emergency physician opens up about what it’s like on the inside during COVID-19
Emergency physician opens up about what it’s like on the inside during COVID-19 – Mar 25, 2020

Finkler says estimates of COVID-19 cases in B.C. and across Canada are low, as many people are asymptomatic.

He adds the public should be “worried but not panicked” about the spread of novel coronavirus and the prospect of a “second wave” of infections, saying the health-care system has worked to increase capacity.

“I would say if any country is prepared to take this on, it would be Canada, and I think B.C. is well poised to give it our best shot.”

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