Friends are mourning the loss this past weekend of Youssef Al-Begamy, a Saskatchewan doctor with COVID-19 who died after being transferred to an intensive care unit in Ontario.
"He was a special person. Smiling, welcoming and happy," friend Fauzi Ramadan said of Al-Begamy on Monday. "He was a hard worker."
Al-Begamy was among the 27 former Saskatchewan COVID-19 patients who were flown out to Ontario in recent weeks amid a fourth-wave bed crunch in Saskatchewan.
Two other transferred patients have also died in Ontario in the last week, according to the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency.
Al-Begamy worked in several places, including an emergency room in Moose Jaw, according to Ramadan. Al-Begamy underwent surgery on his shoulder about a week and a half before he got sick and had tested negative at the time, Ramadan said.
"We don't know how he contracted [COVID]," Ramadan said.
Plans are underway to send Al-Begamy's body back to his home country of Saudi Arabia, as his mother requested he be buried there, Ramadan said.
In a Facebook post, the Islamic Association of Saskatchewan—Regina called Al-Begamy a well-loved emergency doctor and family physician working in Fort Qu'Appelle, Moose Jaw and Regina.
A mosque in Moose Jaw is holding a ceremony in his honour following prayer at 7:30 p.m. CST.
18 patients remain in Ontario
As of Monday afternoon, 18 former Saskatchewan patients remained under care in Ontario hospitals.
Outside of the three patients who died, six of the 27 transferred patients have been brought back to Saskatchewan.
"All patients who passed away, passed away in hospital," a spokesperson for the agency said. "All repatriations of patients discharged from Ontario ICUs have occurred successfully."
Health Minister Paul Merriman said any death due to COVID-19 is tragic.
"It's really sad," echoed Ryan Meili, the leader of the Saskatchewan NDP. "But it's got to be really hard on families to have someone flown halfway across the country and then never come back."