Life · Nursing

as we hold our breath before the inevitable…

I feel lucky a great deal of the time to live in the Province of Ontario, Canada.

But let me tell you, lately that is certainly not how I’ve felt.

If you don’t live in Ontario, let me sum things up for you in a nutshell- it’s a disaster. Our case counts of COVID19 are skyrocketing, and in the weeks to come, our healthcare system will face unimaginable challenges. There is no doubt we will be where Italy & NYC were last year. Current projections expect over 10 000 COVID deaths in Ontario by summer 2021.

10 000 – I just want everyone to take that in.

Chances are, if you are reading this, I’m preaching to the choir- but I implore you to please do your part to provide reputable & education to the people in your circles.. and make them understand the magnitude of what is about to happen.

This is HARD. for everyone. And I am not discounting anyone’s experiences or challenges. people are financially impacted by COVID19. Their mental health is impacted. Opportunities lost. I get it. Everyone is tired- but it is not the time to give up. The situation which is becoming dire cannot get worse- our health systems and healthcare workers simply can’t bear it. I know people feel lost, frustrated, and trapped in this never-ending cycle.

Nobody wants a lockdown- health care workers and public health experts included. The lockdowns would NOT have been necessary if root causes were addressed to begin with. Unfortunately the government of Ontario has not heeded the warnings of public health experts, and healthcare workers and the plea for action over the past year. The variants are a whole different game- people younger and younger are sick and dying of COVID19. Our government turned away the support of the Red Cross offered by the Federal government (despite the PLEAS of healthcare workers as we are drowning.. and this is just the beginning). This has put us in the impossible position of having to consider how we will “triage” patients for ICU care in the province (basically deciding if patients will receive care or not when beds & resources become scarce). Not to alarm people- but this is not far in sight.

I have been really disheartened and frankly disappointed this week to receive a couple messages from people who want to argue that these lockdowns are unfair and peoples’ rights and freedoms are being violated. This makes me sick to my stomach. I can no longer support the narrative that people’s “freedoms” are being taken away. Your “freedoms” are not as important as another human life. Not one, and not 10 000 of them. I don’t apologize if you have a problem with that, because that is the truth. It is your human responsibility.

To hear that “vulnerable people should be protected” and “everyone else” should be able to go back to live their lives…. people just aren’t getting it.

Nothing is more important than human lives.

I’d like to share with you some pretty startling statistics to shed some light. I know often in situations like these it is hard to find the best information so I have attached some screenshots of up to date data & linked some articles to help provide some context.

Today (April 18th): 737 ICU Admissions of COVID19 (this is not COVID19 patients on medicine/ inpatient floors). Some of those patients are being cared for in Paediatric Intensive Care Units as adult units surge and are over capacity. Source: CCSO

People are getting sick with the variants younger and younger (we have seen more paediatric/ neonatal cases recently) and more pregnant mothers contracting COVID19, resulting in them having to deliver babies prematurely (and quarantined from seeing their infants after birth)

Someone had the actual nerve to say to me this week “It’s not about race Chantal, although you would like it to be”… (did anyone tell COVID that?) In fact, heartbreakingly it is. As a person of colour myself, it is hard to explain to those who are privileged (typically white individuals) that inequities exist because it strips them of the privilege they know as a way of life. Although I very much would NOT like it to be this way, these are some facts for you: marginalized individuals (normally people of colour living in less affluent neighbourhoods) are less likely to be able to stay home when sick because they need to put food on the table. Due to decisions of this province to vaccinate mostly affluent white populated neighbourhood, essential workers who continue to have to go to work and put themselves at risk, are not protected, and our ICU admission rates have doubled over the past month.

Marginalized individuals are less likely to be able to socially distance when living in close quarters, they are 4 times more likely to be admitted to hospital or the ICU, and 2 times more likely to die due to COVID19.

Source: Public Health Ontario (2021)

I am also frankly tired of hearing this ridiculous “it is just the flu” argument- because anyone who states that has not educated themselves or done their research before contributing to the detriment of 10 000+ deaths and thousands more lives across this province affected by COVID19. To give some context- COVID19 is projected to result in more than 10 000 deaths in ONTARIO alone by summer 2021 (Source: COVID19HealthData.org), whereas influenza only attributes to apps 3500 deaths across CANADA per year (Source: Statistics Canada). A record number of ICU Beds (Over 1100) are projected to be needed for COVID19 patients alone by the end of April.

To be clear- we do not, as a province have the resources to staff these beds. For a Respiratory Therapist to run the ventilators, for 6 nurses & MDs to prone patients when they can no longer be ventilated supine, to supply medications to ICU patients in need of these resources to sustain their lives. Opening 350 additional ICU beds doesn’t fix this problem.

Nobody is disputing that police enforcement is NOT the answer to this. Playgrounds and outdoor spaces being closed- is also NOT the answer. Nobody ever suggested these things be done. When our Ontario government sits in front of the cameras and says “we’ve done everything”. this is a lie. For the past year, healthcare workers, public health experts & a variety of informed advisors have BEGGED this provincial government to provide paid sick days (to reduce spread from people going to work sick), close non- essential services (non emergent construction, shopping malls & big box stores) ramp up vaccination and target at risk groups, and enhance testing measures).

Let’s just talk about the fact that these measures never SHOULD have even had to be considered because the situation would have been much better under control if handled appropriately over the past year. Enforcing the first (or even second!) lockdown would have been more effective. Providing sick days… effective. Shutting down factories & construction where 70% of spread is currently taking place – EFFECTIVE. To say we have done everything is just not true.

PLEASE- do your part, stay home whenever you can, and help myth squash if you hear people in your circle who may not have accurate/ up to date information. Get vaccinated when it is your turn.

MYTH: AstraZeneca is more dangerous than COVID19 since I could get a blood clot.

Fact: the risk of you getting a blot clot from birth control, smoking, and COVID19 are all much more likely. Also, the vaccines are completely safe and have gone through rigorous testing. Think about it- this year globally we have come together to fight one common thing- COVID. With the amount of money and resources invested in developing a vaccine, it only makes sense that we have been able to expedite the process!

MYTH: COVID is the same as the flu, why are we making a big deal & overreacting?

Influenza Rates in Canada: Statistics Canada, 2021

Fact: Influenza rates in Canada are approximately 12, 200 hospitalizations & 3500 deaths respectively. Canada has currently surpassed over 1, 100, 000 cases & 23 000 deaths. This is not a hoax.

MYTH: Field hospitals were created a year ago to treat patients for COVID19, why aren’t we using them?

FACT: Across the province, many of these field hospitals will be used. Especially in the GTA/ Hamilton area. Most stable patients are transferred to field hospitals where these patients can be cared for. These settings are NOT appropriate for unstable patients in the ICU who receive higher levels in care. The fact of the matter is, patients who are less stable cannot be cared for in field hospitals. ICUs are bursting at the seams, most functioning at 115- 120% capacity. Patients who would normally be in ICUs are being transferred to inpatient floors sicker and sicker. Paediatric wards being closed to make room for adult COVID wards. Patients are being transferred across the province to receive ICU care if there is not a bed locally for them. Paediatric centers are caring for adult patients.

MYTH: Hallway healthcare has been happening for forever, how is this different?

Fact: Our health system has been fractured in many places over the past many years- this is not untrue. However this is completely different. People can now be transferred within the province for ICU care without consent due to bed shortages. Those who need an ICU bed with non- COVID reasons may not be able to get one. Furthermore, the triage of Critical Care Services (or ICU care/ beds) is completely different… and what it means is something very bad. It basically means physicians would have to assess the status of a patient and determine based on a score who is more “appropriate” for ICU care.

This is really bad guys- and we are approaching a situation where people will need to triage if people receive care or are left in hallways to die alone. I can’t believe to tell you how hard this is to imagine as both an ICU nurse.. and as a human being. I am heartbroken for all these patients, families, and my colleagues because this was all so preventable. We have lost our way.

It is time to come together, create hope and navigate some of the darkest days in the province we will probably ever see together. We have all been so much, it would be a waste to throw it all away now. I’m begging- we are all begging, for the sake of thousands of lives and to see our province become whole again at some point in the future- please do your part, and be kind to one another.

In the spirit of hope, I will leave you with a cute dog pic of my new puppy Oliver who is sending you all the love, support & good vibes we all need more than ever right now.

Stay safe & well.

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