After caring for 'sickest' ICU patients yet, Sask. doctor pleads for people to follow restrictions

·3 min read

As health-care workers continue to treat people with COVID-19, a Saskatoon doctor says many workers are feeling tired of the difficult hospital situation right now.

Dr. Susan Shaw is working on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, and is also the chief medical officer for the Saskatchewan Health Authority. She recently finished a seven-day stint in the intensive care unit, and said it's different than before.

"What I really noticed about my last seven days was that this is the sickest group of people that I've ever had the privilege of looking after," Shaw said.

"The strain on the team is evident," she said. "They're all working so hard and it's having a negative or difficult impact on all of us because the work is taxing. And it's there's really no end in sight at this point."

Shaw said there have been challenges as hospitalizations increased in December, including trying not to cause burnout in medical staff that have specialized ICU training. Shaw said she works with incredibly strong people and through the tough situation, she's proud of them.

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"Morale is tired, if that's the right word. The people are so committed to doing the best they can, but it's a very difficult situation for us all to be," she said.

"The biggest strain has been the challenge of making sure that we have the right staff, the right number of people and that we're not working people so hard that they're getting tired and unable to do their job."

Vaccine rollout giving health-care workers a boost: Shaw

Shaw said news of the vaccine and seeing the first health-care workers in Saskatoon immunized on Tuesday has helped health-care workers. Shaw was one of the first to get the immunization, and said the vaccine is just one part of how the province gets through the pandemic, but it's a huge boost.

"It has absolutely boosted my spirits and given me an energy boost and I can feel it in the intensive care unit as well," she said.

"It's absolutely amazing to think that in less than a year we have a safe, effective vaccine available in our province and actually now in the arms of [health-care workers]."

However, Shaw said she gets a strong internal emotional response when she sees people openly defying the public health orders.

"I know what happens when people contract COVID. I know so many people are doing absolutely their best to keep themselves safe and we can't do it alone," she said.

"When I see people who are choosing to not follow the law and not follow the recommendations, it puts everybody at risk. It's absolutely deflating and it really does make me sad," Shaw said. "Sad, angry and frustrated."

Shaw said she's concerned about a spike after Christmas and New Years Eve from people gathering illegally, because of the spike after Mother's Day and after Thanksgiving, she said.

"My appeal to all of you is please stay home and please keep yourself safe and follow all of the guidelines," Shaw said. "I don't want to meet you in the intensive care unit."

Shaw said she knows this year has been different and encourages people to make sure they are following the guidelines, not gathering with people outside their household and connecting virtually.

"It is an important time of year for many of us. There's many celebrations and anniversaries and special dates for all of us around this time and it's a chance to do it differently and maybe make new memories."