Dr. Peter Brindley is bracing for a tsunami. The critical care physician at the University of Alberta Hospital intensive care unit says the term “second wave” doesn’t do justice to what’s unfolding on the frontlines of the health-care system.
“It’s trying times. And you know what? I still don’t think we’ve hit the peak of this,” he said on Friday.
Brindley is witnessing first-hand the connection between rising community transmission and hospitalizations.
“I want people to understand this is not fake news. This is not a conspiracy theory. This is serious.”
In just under two weeks, Alberta’s data has shown a 40 per cent increase to hospitalizations and a 61 per cent increase in patients who have had to be admitted to the ICU.
Alberta’s ICU are 77 per cent full — as of Friday, 54 of 70 available beds were in use.
“Numbers are up and up every day. Every day is a new record. 30 to 50 per cent of our patients in the ICU who are intubated are now COVID positive.”
The health system is comprised of more than just space — beds and capacity — it’s also carried by human resources — health workers and support staff. After nine months of working through a pandemic, the strain is showing.
“We’re shattered, as is everybody. We’re exhausted and we wish this darn thing would go away.”
In an interview with Global Edmonton news anchor Gord Steinke, Brindley said he and his staff will continue to battle the virus, but added public health measures are having a big impact on ICU staffing.
“There is a profound knock-on effect because if somebody is exposed, then other people who are working around them have to go off work until they’re tested. And so already exhausted lines of clinical people get stretched ever thinner.”
Data has shown that every time a health-care worker tests positive for COVID-19, about six other staff members have to isolate, according to Dr. Noel Gibney — a professor emeritus at the University of Alberta and a former doctor at the U of A hospital.
“Where we are with staffing at the moment, we definitely don’t have the staff to cope with an increase beyond where we are now,” Gibney said.
Brindley said he’s often staying at the hospital after his shift ends — and he said he isn’t the only one.
“We’re sleeping-in overnight. And in fact, that’s the second and third line rotation set up. And we may go to shorter shifts and, you know, all sorts of things just to keep ourselves going.”
Brindley said he is very concerned with the hostile attitude he’s seeing from anti-vaccine activists.
“I’m starting to get hate mail and bizarre accusations from anti-vaxxers that we’re working for big pharma because we’re promoting a vaccine.”
He says the accusations and misconceptions are ludicrous.
“If I’m working for big pharma I must be working for big mattress and big oxygen because of the number of people we now have in beds in the hospital.”
Brindley says, personally, he won’t hesitate to get a COVID-19 vaccine when it’s available.
“I can’t wait to take a vaccine. I’ll be at the front of the queue dragging my friends and family along.”
— With files from Emily Mertz, Global News, and Kirby Bourne, 630 CHEDView link »