As the province continues to open up and ease COVID-19 restrictions, ICU doctors in Alberta are cautioning people to remain vigilant.
Dr. Darren Markland, an intensive care physician and nephrologist at the Royal Alex, wanted to visually remind people of the risk COVID-19 still poses so he sent a tweet showing the stockpile of ventilators at his hospital.
“I ride my bike into the hospital every day. Now I see the playgrounds full, I see kids playing basketball, I see people going to restaurants and I’m pretty sure they’re not families.
“I’ve given Albertans an A+ on what they’ve done but it’s midterms – the final marks are not out,” he said.
“We will have outbreaks. This is a brand-new virus. We’re at a point where we have expanded testing and what we’ve done is bought ourselves a lot of time to get it right because we know there will be infections coming forward.”
Markland is hopeful the photo in his tweet gets the message across that we are not out of the woods yet.
“There’s been a lot of words. I think those words have been brilliantly delivered by our chief medical officer of health.
“But a visual representation of all the work that’s gone into getting ready for this I think cuts through some of that mental fatigue about hearing the updates and hearing the numbers.”
As COVID-19 cases started to present themselves in Canada earlier this year, there was a marked shift in March in Markland’s day-to-day routine at the hospital.
“The whole feeling of the hospital changed. The intensive care unit was a tense place because we started to see an influx of pneumonias. That’s a time when we get a lot of viral pneumonias and influenza but every case, we were worried it was going to be COVID,” he said.
There was a slightly ominous feeling as the reality and the gravity of the situation set in.
“One of those things that really brought me to tears: I realized I had to update my will. There was a legitimate concern, at that time, that health-care providers would catch it and get sick and die.
“This was when New York was being overwhelmed,” he said.
“As Albertans did the right thing and shut the virus down, there was a huge sigh of relief. But we’ve never take it for granted. We still wash our hands until our skin is almost coming off.”
Markland stresses Albertans need to continue to follow public health guidance.
“We’re taking some liberties now. That’s human nature. But when you see the next outbreak come out, don’t be surprised. Don’t get mad. Don’t take it too hard.
“Realize the information is there and we should follow it,” he said, citing the need to physically distance and wash your hands.
A decision about Phase 2 of relaunch is expected early next week.
“Enjoy your summer but follow the rules.
“When you go out to the restaurants, when you do your shopping, remember what it was like in March,” Markland said.
Dr. Erika MacIntyre, vice-president of the Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association, is an intensive respirologist at the Misericordia Hospital. As the province prepares to open up even more, she said the health-care system is ready.
“We are prepared. If need be, we can isolate and we can do this,” she said.
“Hospitals have not been all that busy. That’s been good right? We didn’t want what happened in some other places to happen here. We have been prepared and we have not seen a lot of cases in the ICU or even in the hospitals.”
MacIntyre said it is important to move on to the next phase of relaunch.
“We’re thinking about keeping our death rates low, keeping our numbers in hospital at a reasonable level but that comes at a price, I believe, in quality in life,” she said.
However, that doesn’t mean forgetting about public health measures.
“Do what’s right for you based on your age, your health status, your mental well-being,” MacIntyre said.