Sudbury ER physician details challenges of delivering care during COVID-19 pandemic
When asked to describe caring for patients in the emergency room during the pandemic in one word, Sudbury ER Dr. Rob Lepage got emotional and simply said “challenging.”
Lepage has been an emergency room physician for more than three decades. He said staff at Health Sciences North had to learn as they went along, since there was no playbook on how to provide care in an emergency room during a pandemic.
And 18 months into the battle with COVID-19, Lepage said staff are dealing with what he calls collateral damage of the pandemic.
That includes elderly people who have been deteriorating at home because of cancelled procedures and mental health and addictions patients forced into long wait times at the ER.
“Sudbury, per capita, has … the most opioid deaths and as well the most visits to an emergency department related to opioid problems," Lepage said.
"So all of this really has meant that our numbers of patients every day has really increased. A month ago we saw 260; yesterday, we saw 235 patients on top of that. It’s a well known fact that HSN was built too small and so we’re overcrowded with inpatients and it’s very challenging for people to get seen quickly.”
He said more in-patient beds would alleviate some of the strain, but nurse Sheryl Strojny said there also needs to be more hands on deck.
“When you’re with us, you know we’re trying really hard -- it's just a matter of, you know, decreased staff and resources," said Strojny.
"We just need to work together to get through it and we’re trying there’s just nothing else for us to do at the moment to try and make this any better so we’re just doing what we can with what we have.”
While the emergency department is busy, both Lepage and Strojny said in an emergency, residents shouldn’t hesitate to come to the hospital. But once there, try to exercise a little patience and understanding.