Opinion: Working together to stop COVID in our community

By: Dr. Joan Bellaire, MD
For NewsNow

My favourite African proverb comes to mind during this time, “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”.

As the world and our community struggle with the COVID pandemic the importance of working together rings especially true.

Our dedicated medical community: family doctors, nurses, hospital staff, administrators, midwives and all those working in other settings such as hospice, long-term care, and clinics, are working together to the best of our abilities to ensure we bring the community through this unusual and scary time.

We are all providing care within our clinics, if an ‘in-clinic visit’ is necessary. But we are also utilizing measured protocols to ensure your safety, the safety of our staff and to limit the spread of the COVID virus.

You might now ‘see’ your doctor through video conferencing, or by phone, when necessary for safety.

We are trying hard to support those who are not feeling well, while limiting burdening the emergency department so those working in that department are able to prepare for a possible influx of patients sick with the COVID virus, who may require immediate support.

The medical community is also supporting our hospital for those who need hospitalized care.

Some physicians are also supporting our community by working at the Assessment Clinics in Hamilton, and yet others have already put their names forward in case they’re needed to step into different disciplines of medicine that run critically short of doctors and nurses, simply to ensure that we all have care if the need arises as the peak of COVID infection comes.

We in the medical community really need you to help us to get through this difficult time. You can do more to limit the spread of this virus than we can.

If you are at all sick with cough, and or a fever, you absolutely must stay home and even stay quarantined from other family members for a full 14 days minimum. Everyone in the community is asked to stay home except for grocery or pharmacy shopping.

This means you do not gather in person with anyone whom you are not currently living with – not for coffee or playdates or meeting up at the playground.

We should all by now, be working from home or remotely unless your job has been deemed essential by the government, and you are required to leave your home to work.

Do not do other shopping or go to meetings. While it has been ideal to be able to go for walks on our own, even this may change across our province and country shortly.

It is clear that all of us doing this well will save lives, actual lives of our own community members, and this includes your friends and neighbours and your healthcare workers. I would not look forward to being a province where people continued to gather, shop as if nothing has changed and the government had no choice, but to police us “sheltering in place” with fines and even the threat of jail terms as has happened in the US and abroad.

I am very comforted to live in such a warm and compassionate community. We, as a collective, have always had a sense of pride that carried us over many rough patches together.

We have learned the strength of knowing that we are in it together. We need this solidarity and commitment more than ever.

Without our neighbours, our community members, our friends and co-workers, this extremely trying time can be very lonely, depressing and for some, an unsafe time. But, how can we as a compassionate caring community continue to provide that support when we all are encouraged to hunker down, stay indoors and practice social distancing?

Our older population, or persons with chronic health problems are at a greater risk if exposed to COVID-19. Let us consider looking out our front windows and regaining a sense of neighbourhood watch!

Think of your neighbourhood, seniors, disabled persons, those under quarantine (and that will be an ongoing number of us) and those who are actually sick at home. Have you exchanged emails or phone numbers with your neighbours or found some other way to connect? Now would be a good time do so.

It is so important to make connections and feel supported at this time, even while we keep our distance from everyone.

All community groups no matter how formalized or informal (meaning anything from faith groups to quilting circles, Rotary clubs to curling teams) can set up their own ongoing outreach and ways to connect-online, via phone, etc.

Do you have a health care worker living near you (nurses, xray technicians, environmental service worker, a hospital administrator, or MD)?

Every one of us is working much longer hours than usual. A text, or even an email saying you are there if needed to take out their garbage or pick up groceries would be appreciated.

Another way for our community to be compassionate is to share our resources with the lens of equity and parity. When you go grocery shopping please only purchase what you need for say, a two week period.

Taking more than that deprives the next family. Remember that in times of anxiety a human coping mechanism may be to hoard or panic buy.

Talk to trusted friends or family if you feel that tendency so that you can regain perspective to purchase only that which you need for that two week time period.

Do you have a box of N95 masks or loop masks, even one or two or three that you don’t need? Perhaps they are in your woodworking shop, or with your paint supplies.

Please consider sharing with your family doctor’s office, midwife’s office, or McNally house hospice- these are all vital healthcare locations that currently do not have a sufficient supply of masks to manage all this for the next several months.

We know it won’t always feel like this. We will move through this uncertain time and this too shall pass.

If we “trust, commit, and do our bit” I know that we will emerge wiser, stronger, and more connected than ever. I pray that you continue to feel comforted knowing your medical community is and will always be here to support you.

(Dr. Joan Bellaire, MD, CCFP, FCFP is Lead Physician of Smithville Medical Center FHT)

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