‘We’re mentally exhausted’: COVID-19 ward physician warns about strain on hospital staff, healthcare system

EDMONTON — As COVID-19 outbreaks become more prevalent in Edmonton hospitals, one physician at the Royal Alex is warning about the toll she sees being taken, not only on staff, but the healthcare system altogether.

“We’ve seen death. We’ve seen death from COVID,” Dr. Neeja Bakshi told CTV News Edmonton.

Dr. Bakshi has been working in the COVID Ward at the Royal Alex, one of several Edmonton hospitals currently experiencing outbreaks.

“We’re mentally exhausted,” she said. “We’re physically exhausted.”

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the city, Dr. Bakshi says she’s changed how she does her job.

“We’re putting on and taking off PPE all day long. That’s exhausting,” she said. “And then the mental fatigue. ‘Is this going to end, or is this going to continue to increase?’”

Dr. Bakshi isn’t the only healthcare professional worried about the strain on the system.

Alberta’s top doctor expressed similar concerns during her Thursday briefing.

“Our health system cannot care for the increasing number of COVID cases without stopping other services which is happening now,” said Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health.

As the number of COVID-19 cases grow in the province, resources from other areas of the health system need to be redirected to deal with the problem.

RELEASE OF REPORT ON FIRST OUTBREAK?

It’s been close to five months since an Edmonton hospital first declared a COVID-19 outbreak. Now, at least one Alberta doctor wants to see a report released on Misericordia Hospital’s experience dealing with the out-of-control virus.

“We need to know how it’s getting from unit to unit,” Dr. Joe Vipond told CTV News Edmonton. “We’ve heard recently from Health Canada that there’s airborne spread of this virus so is it possibly that ventilation in these hospitals are an issue?”

Alberta Health Services maintains that lessons learned from the Misericordia outbreak are already being implemented.

“In each one of the recommendations that we’ve had, we started immediately,” said Dr. David Zygum, medical director for the Edmonton Zone. “We didn’t need for many of  things a report to be generated to act on it.” 

Earlier this week, Dr. Zygun told CTV News Edmonton that he was “significantly concerned” about the hospital outbreaks in Edmonton.

“We continue to learn from every outbreak. Every facility is a little bit different,” said Dr. Zygun.

Dr. Vipond though, says he hasn’t seen many changes.

“We haven’t really had any big changes in policy except for wearing goggles since the Misericordia outbreak,” he said. ”So there’s a question as to whether the current policies for healthcare worker safety are adequate.”

At the end of the day, all of the province’s healthcare would likely agree with Dr. Bakshi on at least one thing: fighting the coronavirus is up to everyone.

“We do need support from the community to help kind of curb this rise that we’re seeing.”

With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Amanda Anderson

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