Working in an emergency department of any hospital can be an adrenaline challenge at the best of times, but can also be rewarding – no two days are alike. In these times of COVID-19, the staff of an emergency department are the frontline workers who encounter this plague of a virus firsthand and are constantly being challenged as each new case arrives through their doors.
There was a recent Facebook post that caught our attention, so Stittsville Central reached out to the person who had written it. As it turns out, the information was written by Dr. Karen Turcotte, a Stittsville resident and Chief of Emergency Medicine at the Almonte Hospital. Dr. Turcotte is also the lead for the Ottawa Valley Family Health team. What she had posted contained a wealth of knowledge and actions that should be heeded to ensure you remain healthy during the COVID pandemic.
Dr. Turcotte said, “As a frontline physician in the Ottawa region, I’ve received an impressive amount of support from my friends, and family – thank you!! I’ve also received a lot of questions about what people can do to help”.
Here is Dr. Turcotte’s ‘2 cents on what the general public can do’:
- SOCIAL DISTANCING — yeah yeah, I know you are sick of hearing this. How can you help the frontline workers? STAY HOME, STAY AWAY FROM OTHERS. This is not a joke!
- WASH YOUR HANDS — like your life depends on it.
- STAY HOME IF YOU’RE SICK — even with a mild cold. Wait at least 24 hours after your symptoms have completely resolved before going out even to the grocery store.
- AVOID THE ER IF POSSIBLE — this is probably the last place you want to be right now if you have another option. Family doctors are continuing to provide “Virtual Care” either via telephone or Skype/similar. This is a great place to get advice. Telehealth can also provide guidance if you can’t reach your family doctor or don’t have one. Telehealth Ontario Toll-free: 1-866-797-0000.
- SHOULD YOU HAVE TO VISIT THE ER WITH RESPIRATORY SYMPTOMS, FEVER OR COUGH — you should call ahead so they are prepared for your arrival and if calling 911 let them know as well.
- PREPARE FOR YOUR ER VISIT — if you are having severe shortness of breath or any other illness you feel requires an ER visit. Bring a list of the following with you:
- Medical conditions
- Medications (pills, puffers, insulin, vitamins) – including dosages and how many times a day you take them
- Who is your emergency contact
- Do you have any advanced directives? – for example, have you decided you do not want to have CPR? We need to know this so we can respect your wishes in an emergency situation.
- DONATE BLOOD — Hopefully this reflects that people are socially distancing but we are already running low on blood. Cancer patients are still being treated, people still need surgery, people still need blood. If you are healthy and able, consider blood donation.
- DIFFICULT DISCUSSIONS WITH FAMILY — take the opportunity while you are well to find out what your family members would want if they got sick. Would they want a breathing tube put down to help them breathe? Would they want CPR if their heart stops? I often see younger family members surprised at how confident their older loved ones are in their decision to allow death to occur naturally and not be put on life support. If they get sick, you may have to make decisions for them. This will be easier if you know what they want ahead of time.
- USE THE PUBLIC HEALTH WEBSITE — It has great information on Coronavirus, do you need testing? etc. Don’t waste your time showing up to a testing centre if you do not meet criteria listed on the public health website in your area, because you will not be tested. It also has accurate information on how to properly self-isolate. www.ottawapublichealth.ca
- DON’T VISIT ELDERLY/AT RISK PEOPLE — Do reach out to them via telephone, Skype etc and make sure they are okay and have what they need. Visit only if absolutely necessary.
- KEEP 2M AWAY FROM OTHERS — I have seen lines at stores like Costco outside – make sure that in line you are staying at least 2 m from individuals in line around you. Don’t be afraid to ask others to stand away from you. They need to respect your now very large 2 metres of personal space!
- EXERCISE — everyone is already starting to go stir crazy. Get exercise every single day. You may not be able to go to the gym but you can still go for a walk. There are lots of creative ways to workout at home.
- GET OUTSIDE — fresh air and sunshine does wonders for mental health. You can continue practicing social distancing while going out for a walk or just sitting on your front porch, balcony or backyard.
- UNPLUG FROM ELECTRONICS — the use of social media has been shown to increase anxiety even outside of a pandemic. Screen times have increased dramatically with self-isolation and social distancing. Try and have some dedicated time “unplugged”. This is particularly important 1-2 hours before bedtime to improve sleep quality.
- RECONNECT WITH FAMILY — our everyday lives are so busy. Take advantage of the current situation and spend time playing board games, doing arts and crafts, playing cards, going for a walk or anything you love doing with your family.
- COMMUNITY GAMES — I saw the “Shamrock Game” on St. Patrick’s day where you display a picture of a shamrock in your front window and then children/parents can go for a walk in the neighbourhood and go on a hunt to take pictures/record the shamrocks they found in the community. I encourage you to continue to come up with amazing ideas like this that respect social distancing.
- STAY CALM — panicking will not help anyone. Look out for each other. Help each other out. If someone is self-isolating – call and see if they need you to pick up groceries and leave it at their front door. This is going to last for a while so we are in it for the long haul together. Take care of each other.
An online self-assessment tool was launched Saturday by the federal government. For those who access the tool, you are asked a series of questions about your current status of health. Depending on what symptoms you report, you will be advised to either visit an emergency room, call telehealth, self-isolate at home or do nothing.
If you follow Dr. Turcotte’s regime of advice, your chances of avoiding COVID-19 will have greatly increased and assist you in getting through these very altered lifestyle times.
This editor has worked in the ER at CHEO and during two previous pandemics SARS and H1N1 while working in Infectious and Communicable Diseases at Health Canada, experience has taught me to listen and adhere to all public health announcements and take the information provided by these professionals seriously.
Follow these practices to say healthy — our healthcare workers and system overall needs all the help it can get in these times of the unknown.
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