Working tirelessly amid a recent surge in COVID-19 infections, which quickly filled intensive care units across the province of Canada, hospital staff “face immense trauma (and) moral wounds ”in treating dozens of coronavirus patients, Dosani said.
But what makes it even more difficult, the Toronto palliative care physician and health justice activist told Al Jazeera, is watching the Ontario government put in place measures that he says will not do enough to bring the pandemic under control.
“This whole humanitarian catastrophe should never have happened. If the Ontario government had just listened to the experts and made the important decisions… regarding public health restrictions, we would never have come here, ”Dosani said.
“This whole scenario was completely preventable.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned on April 6 that Canada was facing a “very serious” third wave of the pandemic, and this week the seven-day national average of new coronavirus cases exceeded that of the United States by inhabitant.
Ontario, the country’s most populous province, has been one of the hardest hit places, with new, more easily transmitted strains of the virus spreading rapidly. According to Ontario’s COVID-19 Advisory Table, the so-called variants of concern accounted for 67 percent of all infections as of March 29. The variants also increased the risk of hospitalization by 63 percent; ICU admissions by 103 percent and deaths by 56 percent.
As of April 17, the total number of coronavirus cases in Ontario stood at 2,801 per 100,000 population, while on Sunday its seven-day average of new daily infections stood at 4,341 and 741 COVID-19 patients were in intensive care. The Globe and Mail newspaper reported that 1,040 COVID-19 patients were in intensive care units across the country on April 12, surpassing the peak of the second wave of around 150 people.
While the Canadian federal government is responsible for securing COVID-19 vaccines and making nationwide recommendations during the pandemic, health care is controlled at the provincial level in Canada, meaning every province has implemented up its own plan to fight the virus.
Premier Doug Ford has said his government is acting as quickly as possible and taking a science-based approach, restricting in-person shopping and eating, ordering schools to return to distance learning and stepping up the vaccination effort this month -this. On April 7, Ford imposed a province-wide home support order and declared Ontario’s third state of emergency since the start of the pandemic.
“Even the people who were showing us the graphics and where we were going… the capacity of the ICUs and these variants took off even beyond what they told us,” Ford told reporters at a press conference this afternoon. that day. “And the second that I found out yesterday, I immediately asked them to write the orders.”
But for weeks earlier, Ford had eased restrictions based on the number of cases in various parts of Ontario, despite health experts urging the right-wing populist premier to keep the measures in place as projections showed hospital ICUs could fill up and the daily number of cases could reach. record levels.
“The actual number of critical care cases is well within our projected range and, in fact, is closer to our best-case scenario than the worst-case scenario,” a group of Ontario health experts released data modeling COVID-19 throughout the pandemic said on April 7, dismissing the idea that Ford was only made aware of the hospital’s capacity a day earlier.
At today’s press conference, the Prime Minister suggested that the modeling did not project these numbers of COVID-19 patients in our intensive care units. The actual number of critical care cases is well within our projected range and, in fact, is closer to our best case scenario than the worst case scenario. pic.twitter.com/6KJKpS9lPE
– Covid19MC (@ covid19mc) 7 avril 2021
Experts called on the province to more narrowly define what constitutes an ‘essential’ workplace and provide more coronavirus vaccines to hard-hit neighborhoods, especially those housing essential workers of color, who have been affected by the disease. disproportionately with disease throughout the pandemic.
Many have also urged Ford to guarantee workers paid sick leave, arguing that workplace outbreaks are fueling the spread of infections, as workers cannot afford to stay home without pay if they fall ill. But he repeatedly rejected the idea, accusing supporters of “playing politics.”
As healthcare workers and medical associations continued to urge the premier to tighten restrictions, speed up vaccine distribution and provide more aid to frontline workers, Ford extended the provincial order on Friday. stay at home for an additional two weeks and ordered the Ontario borders closed. interprovincial travel.
He also announced the closure of a series of outdoor spaces, including playgrounds – despite the lack of evidence that these settings lead to infection rates – and gave police the power to arrest anyone from ask for his address and why they are not at home, and to stop vehicles.
“We are making tough, but necessary, decisions to reduce mobility and keep people safe in their homes,” he said in a statement.
In a province where blacks, Aboriginals and other minority groups for years have been disproportionately targeted by police ‘carding’ practices – with police stopping people on the streets and demanding that they be identify – the outcry was immediate. A study last year also found that racialized Canadians also carried the brunt of enforcement of the coronavirus rules.
A day later, Ford reversed his decision saying play ground could remain open and police would only be allowed to arrest people suspected of participating in an organized event or holding a social gathering, Canadian media reported.
“We cannot control our way out of this pandemic,” Dosani told Al Jazeera. “Why does it take an uproar, why does it need a backlash, why do healthcare workers and the people of Ontario have to scream and scream, hugging, for our government to listen?”
Trudeau ad plans to send federal healthcare workers to Ontario on Sunday, as well as roll out rapid testing for COVID-19 in provincial hot spots, “especially for essential workers and workplaces.”
In the meantime, frontline health workers like intensive care nurse Birgit Umaigba continue to treat dozens of COVID-19 patients. Umaigma said she was afraid of every shift – both of contracting the disease herself and of spreading it as she moved between patients and hospitals in the Toronto area.
But with the nursing shortage – a long-standing problem that worsened during the pandemic – and the need to put food on the table for herself and her nine-year-old daughter, Umaigba said she had no choice.
“Every day that I come in I’m scared,” she told Al Jazeera. “Honestly, sometimes I don’t even want to go, but I introduce myself anyway because we are already so small [staffed], Nurses in intensive care, and I also have to provide for my family. It is a frightening situation. There is so much anxiety in the air.
Umaigba said she contracted COVID-19 once so far during the pandemic and was exposed to the virus in another case; both times she had to spend two weeks in isolation at home without pay. She said paid sick leave would be very helpful for frontline workers.
“I see a population of predominantly racialized people admitted to intensive care and from what I understand many of these people are underpaid factory workers who do not have access to paid sick leave or a day off. paid to get them vaccinated, ”she said.
“I don’t have access to paid sick leave, but I continue to give myself at the bedside to save lives. This is wrong on all levels. The least the government can do for me is to guarantee me paid sick leave when I fall ill while working on the front line, and for so many others who do the same.