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Coronavirus: Toronto emergency room doctor says team is prepared for ’round two’ of COVID-19

Click to play video 'Toronto hospital ER chief warns worst of coronavirus pandemic has yet to pass' Toronto hospital ER chief warns worst of coronavirus pandemic has yet to pass
WATCH ABOVE: Global News revisits a Toronto hospital that had one of the highest number of COVID-19 patients at the peak of the coronavirus pandemic. As Caryn Lieberman reports, the hospital’s chief of emergency medicine says the worst of the pandemic has yet to hit but his team is ready for it – Jul 27, 2020

Dr. Leon Rivlin has been working on the frontline of the fight against the novel coronavirus at Humber River Hospital since the start of the pandemic and says his team is ready for a second wave of the virus.

“Whether it’s a big second wave or a small one, we are definitely prepared with all of the learning that we had to do in the first part of managing the pandemic,” he said.

Rivlin, the chief and medical director of emergency medicine at the hospital, took Global News on a tour of the department.

“In many ways, back in March, we were operating in the dark,” he recalled.

Read more: Here’s how hospital staff at a Toronto ICU are treating coronavirus patients

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When the virus arrived, even the most experienced doctors were baffled by it.

“I think the scariest thing for a lot of us was that we were looking at New York, we were looking at Italy, and we were terribly worried that what we might be doing would not be sufficient in order to prevent that,” he said.

Hundreds of COVID-19-positive patients made their way through the emergency room, but much has changed over the last few months.

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“What we’re finding as a hospital that’s serving this community is that we’re not having a lot of cases coming in, which is really, in my opinion, a great sign, because what that means is that public health strategies are managing it effectively,” he explained.

“People are not getting sick enough that they need to come in and they’re understanding what to do to manage it in their sort of home environment.”

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At its peak, the hospital’s intensive care unit had 19 critically ill COVID-19 patients, nearly half of the ICU’s total capacity. Today, there are none.

“What we’re doing now that a lot of people weren’t doing is wearing masks all the time. We’re sanitizing. We have a much better understanding of how to manage our [personal protective equipment],” he said.

Doctors and nurses have learned more about COVID-19 and how to minimize transmission, but Rivlin warned we are not out of the woods.

“I don’t feel like we’ve been through the worst of it, not yet,” he said.

Experts predict a second wave of the virus potentially in September with a return to school in the fall or in the winter.

READ MORE: Toronto nurses open up about struggles, challenges amid pandemic

“I worry about what’s going to happen this winter, and this is purely based on nothing more than just my own bias and concern,” he said.

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“Because of that I make sure that we’re positioning ourselves as an emergency department in the best way possible in order to manage this virus

By organizing the emergency room in a way that allows patients with COVID-19 to safely move through without making others sick, Rivlin said he is confident the hospital is ready for what may be to come.

“There’s been an enormous amount of learning that took place behind the scenes in order to deliver care safely during the pandemic, so round two we got that all down and in that we are prepared with certainty,” he said.

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