The number of cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, is steadily increasing in Canada as more tests are carried out – and physicians, nurses and other healthcare professionals are gauging how ready they are to respond, Alam told Al Jazeera. Do they have enough supplies and hospital beds? What will they do if, and when, they run out?
“Every country that has been hit by the coronavirus has had its health system quickly overwhelmed,” said Alam, who works at a local clinic and a hospital that she said was already running above 100 percent capacity during Canada’s winter.
“A lot of us are just mentally preparing ourselves for the decisions we’re going to have to make over the coming weeks – and to do our best by the families and the patients that we take care of.”
Healthcare workers have been thrust into the heart of the global COVID-19 pandemic: More than 351,000 cases have been confirmed across over 160 countries, and hospitals and clinics are being stretched to their limits.
In China, where the coronavirus was first detected, thousands of healthcare workers were exposed to the virus, and dozens have died. A similar issue is emerging in Italy, where healthcare workers accounted for more than 8 percent of confirmed cases, according to a recent report. On March 18, Milan-based anesthesiologist Marco Pavesi wrote: “None of us have ever experienced a tragedy like it.”
Medical staff are working gruelling hours to treat COVID-19 patients and others needing care in trying conditions. In some places, supplies of medical masks, gloves and other protective gear are rapidly dwindling – adding another layer of risk for workers.
In places such as Canada and the United States, where the number of COVID-19 patients is expected to peak in the coming weeks, healthcare workers are waiting for their turn in the eye of the storm – a wait, and reality, that is having a tremendous effect on their mental health.