Rising COVID-19 numbers have medical industry worried

The general hospital in Regina. There are 2,864 active cases in the province. The number is expected to rise. Photo by: Kayla Guerrette

By: Kayla Guerrette

With the rising number of COVID-19 cases, doctors in Saskatchewan are banding together with one clear message— wear a mask or stay home!

According to the Government of Saskatchewan, 211 is the average number of new cases per week and there have been 37 deaths so far. Some may feel like those numbers are low in comparison to other parts of the country but health policy consultant Dennis Kendel believes these numbers are critical and will seriously affect local hospitals.

“It has very little to do with the number of beds but the expertise available at these hospitals,” said Kendel

“People are getting worn down and it’s the staff resources that are really worrisome. It may get to a level where we take away things like surgeries because we don’t have enough staff and need those doctors helping fight the pandemic — well then individuals like cancer patients are having to wait impacting their chance of survival. It’s much more serious than people think.”

Kendel is not the only one who feels this way. Dr Susan Shaw is the Chief Medical Officer for the Saskatchewan Health Authority and continues to take shifts in the ICU in Saskatoon. She sees first-hand how the virus is affecting not only the patients admitted into the hospital, but also their loved ones and front-line workers working around the clock to help fight the pandemic. 

“I see how tired staff are with having to manage the pressures that come with the virus and the families of those who have been admitted,” said Shaw during a media conference Nov. 13.

“They sit beside their loved ones, all of them suffering. Some of them dying. And they may never be truly face-to-face with each other ever again, because they need to wear a mask. They do so, because it’s the right thing to do.”

Even with scientific proof that masks are effective, not everyone agrees and anti-masker protests continue to happen, like the protest that took place near the T.C. Douglas Building in Regina. 

Behavioural Scientist, Gordon Pennycook, believes it is not only what people are exposed to that pushes someone to protest against something like a mask but also the length a person will take to reflect and think about their actions, which is difficult for some people.

“Our mind doesn’t work that way,” said Pennycook.

“People don’t think or fully understand that an action they are taking in this moment can actually affect others in the future because they are not seeing anything happening in that exact moment.” 

Shaw believes people are experiencing what she calls “COVID fatigue” and are becoming more relaxed about following guidelines, measures and restrictions. But fatigue is not stopping her and she is responding to anti-maskers by inviting them to come to the ICU. 

“I invite you to trade places or join me for those conversations with family members whose loved ones are so sick of COVID and are at risk or are dying,” said Shaw.

“I assure you, that conversation is much more difficult than wearing a mask. It is not a political statement. It’s a scientific one. And it’s a statement of love.”

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