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Edmonton hospital staff fighting COVID-19 with ‘renewed commitment and renewed energy’: doctor

Edmonton ICU doctor gets candid about COVID-19 crisis
WATCH ABOVE: University of Alberta ICU doctor Peter Brindley describes the ongoing battle he and his staff are waging on the front lines of the pandemic. He joined Gord Steinke to talk about the challenges health care workers are facing and describes how the expectation is that the COVID-19 numbers will not peak until May.

As a critical care physician at the University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton , Dr. Peter Brindley is used to being busy, but working in the midst of a coronavirus pandemic has taken that to a new level.

“There are plenty of challenges,” he told Global News in an interview on Tuesday. “We were already extremely busy.

“We run at 100 per cent occupancy and now there’s a new issue — a major issue — that’s been added on top.”

In addition to capacity issues, the challenges the COVID-19 crisis has been posing for the hospital already are staffing.

“Some staff are already away because they’ve had contact and they need to be home self-isolating — that’s another challenge,” Brindley said, before explaining how the novel coronavirus adds a whole new layer of complexity to the work he and his colleagues are doing.

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“Some of this is familiar because we’ve trained for other viruses and some of it’s unfamiliar, and you do get into a sort of sense where you have to work through every single medical problem and say, ‘OK, how does COVID change this?'” he said. “‘And how does COVID change nothing?'”

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Brindley said he and other health-care professionals at the hospital are gathering information from doctors in Italy and Spain where COVID-19 has taken a devastating toll.

READ MORE: Europe hopeful as Italy’s daily coronavirus death toll falls to lowest in weeks

“We’re learning their lessons [and] we’re bouncing questions off them,” he said. “We’re getting the broadest range of input — not just doctors and nurses, but specialists in public health and virology, security forces, logistical forces, you name it.”

On Tuesday evening, Premier Jason Kenney revealed some grim figures pulled provincial COVID-19 modelling. While the outcomes could end up being lower or higher than projected, health officials are forecasting Alberta could see between 400 to 6,600 deaths related to COVID-19 before the end of summer.

READ MORE: ‘Probable’ Alberta COVID-19 model predicts 400-3,100 deaths: Kenney

“We haven’t seen the worst, the numbers are going to go up,” Brindley said Tuesday. “The expectation is that the numbers will go up this week and that it will keep peaking into May.”

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When asked if he or others who work at the hospital feel afraid to be doing the work they do during a pandemic, Brindley suggested fear doesn’t play into the mindset of those working in health care right now.

“We don’t really have time to [be afraid],” he said.

“We have personal protective gear… we’re all trying to keep ourselves mentally strong as well as physically strong… We have the gear so let’s get on with this.”

Brindley said he believes most doctors and nurses are more concerned about bringing an illness home to their families than actually contracting it themselves.

“I’ve never been prouder of the staff, and this is going to sound odd, but most of us have charged into this challenge with… a sense of renewed commitment and renewed energy,” he said.

“It’s not just the wonderful nurses and doctors and respiratory therapists, it’s actually the people who are making meals in the hospital, serving us coffee, sweeping the floors… I’m making a real point of smiling at them, checking how they’re doing… make sure everyone feels like they’re part of the team.”

Brindley said aside from following public health orders and guidelines and not hoarding supplies, he has some advice for Albertans on how to get through the pandemic.

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“Look after family members [and] look after community members who may be excessively isolated during this,” he said. “We’ve got to dig deep and decide that we’re going to make it through this.

“Draw on that resilience that, as an Albertan, you will have by the very fact of living in this province.”