‘I cried on my way home’: Health care workers feeling impact of rising COVID-19 cases

EDMONTON — Alberta has now been seeing record numbers of positive COVID-19 cases for weeks, with the increase starting to impact hospitals and workers.

“We are definitely seeing the increases,” said Dr. Neeja Bakshi, a general internal medicine physician lead at the Royal Alexander Hospital.

“We are definitely being stretched as healthcare workers, as a system, and I don’t even think we’re at our peak,” she said.

Dr. Bakshi says the patient’s positive with COVID-19 that she’s seeing are much sicker than patients seen in the spring.

“COVID-19 comes in many, many forms and what we’re seeing in hospital is certainly something we’ve never seen before,” said Dr. Bakshi.

She says one minute the patient is fine, the next they’re crashing.

“I cried on my way home,” she said after a shift on the covid ward that lasted more than 12 hours.

She says the rising hospital admissions are taking a toll physically and emotionally on health care workers.

“Emotions for your patients that are crashing, for the families that can’t be with them, emotion for the sheer exhaustion.”

A situation a physician currently living and working in Melbourne, Australia knows first hand.

“Things are not going to be good there in four to five weeks based on my experience in Melbourne,” said Dr. Carrie Kollias, a Pediatric Orthopaedic Surgeon.

Dr. Kollias spent 20 years in Alberta before moving to Australia and is concerned with what she sees happening in the province.

“A thousand new cases a day, I mean the most that we ever hit in Melbourne in terms of any one day for new cases was 750 cases and our population here is very similar to Alberta. Alberta is actually a little bit smaller at 4.3 million where we’re 4.9 million,” Dr. Kollias said.

They went into a very restrictive lockdown when new cases reached 100 per day.

“We took measures way, way, way before we’re getting to what we’re seeing in Alberta.”

Dr. Kollias said the spike in hospital admissions came five weeks after the start of the lockdown.

She hopes Alberta will learn from how the second wave was dealt with in Australia.

“I’m not saying it’s going to be the same application in Canada but there’s some lessons to be learned from our experience and to be shared,” said Dr. Kollias.

“Her probably knowing what Alberta’s health care system is like and what we can and can’t handle, I think we really have to listen to those experiences,” said Dr. Bakshi adding “because we have great physicians, we have great health care workers but our system can only handle so many people.”

Dr. Kollias has joined a long list of Alberta physicians warning the government that the time to act to contain the spread is now.

“Lockdown isn’t fun but expecting people and hoping they show the personal responsibility to get control over this, I think that time has passed,” she said.

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