By Dr. Jared Oberkirsch
I am a family physician in Weyburn, SK and I share responsibility for the health needs of this community – my hometown.I am also tired of COVID-19. Exhausted by it, actually.
I am worried for rural Saskatchewan. Complacency, political division and, in some cases, outright selfishness are leading our province down a dangerous road toward health system strain and overcapacity issues. We’ve been at this for nine months already and the situation is
not improving. We were told this past week that our ICUs will likely need to
times their current capacity.
Too many of us have valued personal freedom over community safety. Too many of us have found excuses to downplay or ignore public health recommendations. Too many of us are taking our fragile health care system for granted.
Don’t fool yourself – Weyburn and rural communities like us will not be spared if the health system is overwhelmed. COVID-19 is not just a Regina or Saskatoon problem.
Right now, I am scared for you. I am scared for the day when I am trying to transfer you out of Weyburn because you are sick, but there is no bed at the receiving hospital to send you to. Or there is no ambulance to send you in because I’ve used them all for other patients (it’s happened). Or you are too sick to make the trip without me and I can’t find another colleague to cover the ER as I hop in the back of the ambulance with you.
There are only so many physicians and nurse practitioners in rural Saskatchewan.
And now – in addition to covering the Emergency Room, the hospital ward, the Operating Room, long term care, and our family practices – we are reviewing our contingency plans to know what to do if Weyburn is swept up in a pandemic surge.
How will we best use our
finite resources (hospital beds, oxygen access, private rooms to limit transmission, staff from various hospital departments)?
How do we do this work safely?
How do we comfort family who cannot visit their loved one in hospital?
How do we support our
one anesthetist in this community, who has by far the most experience to help you when you can't breathe?
Hard questions with cold and disheartening answers.
It is our privilege to do this work – we don’t expect you figure everything out for us. But we are asking you to step up and do what you
can to lighten our load. Pay attention to
public health updates.
Limit your social contacts (household only). Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Work from home if you can. Support our local small businesses. Donate to a food bank. Watch out for neighbours in need.
There is much work left to do.