Saskatchewan NDP Leader Ryan Meili returns to medical front lines to help with COVID 19

Ryan Meili worked his first shift on Sunday at a testing and assessment centre in Saskatoon's core.
Ryan Meili worked his first shift on Sunday at a testing and assessment centre in Saskatoon's core. Michael Bell / The Canadian Press

Saskatchewan’s Opposition leader has dusted off his stethoscope and returned to practising medicine to help in the fight against COVID-19.

Ryan Meili, a family doctor, said he could see last month that the novel coronavirus was shaping up to be a serious public health issue.

That’s when the NDP leader decided to ask the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan to renew his medical licence.

READ MORE: Saskatoon woman among hundreds still stuck on cruise ship amid COVID-19, unable to leave

Meili and his wife, who is a pediatrician, saw other people stepping up and they wanted to help, too, he said.

On Monday, Saskatchewan reported one new case of COVID-19 for a total of 316, including four deaths, while 238 people have recovered.

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The government is expected to release a plan this week for when some businesses may be allowed to start reopening. But the province’s chief medical health officer said until there’s a vaccine or more immunity to COVID-19, people will required to keep up physical distancing.

Meili worked his first shift on Sunday at a testing and assessment centre in Saskatoon’s core, close to the clinic where he used to work as a family physician.

“I hadn’t pulled the stethoscope out of the drawer for a couple years,” he said Monday.

“You get that little bit of rustiness and wondering how it’ll go. But actually once in there it felt quite comfortable. Admittedly, it was a pretty slow day.”

Meili said he got used to putting on and taking off the protective gown, mask and gloves required of health-care workers.

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“It felt like the right place to be.”

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He said he will work Sundays until the end of May at the same centre, and might be doing other clinical work while balancing his job as Opposition leader.

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With more than 10 per cent of those infected in the province being health-care workers, Meili acknowledged there’s a risk, but added he and his wife follow proper protocols to avoid bringing anything home to their young children.

Meili said he worked the occasional shift as a doctor after being elected as a member of the legislature for Saskatoon-Meewasin in 2017, and even did so a few times after being chosen party leader the following year.

But it became too much working and being Opposition leader and having to be in the legislature.

“It feels right to help in this way.”

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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.