Front-line health-care workers in British Columbia are begging people to stay home and demanding the province do more with a wave of new COVID-19 cases expected to inundate hospitals in the next one to two weeks.
Doctors who spoke to CTV News Vancouver on Saturday said many fear for their own health and well-being during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Absolutely, we know that we are at increased risk of infection by nature of us providing care to sick individuals,” said infectious disease specialist Dr. William Connors. “And we’re trying to deal with all the stress that brings.”
As of Saturday afternoon, there are 424 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in BC – but Connors says due to limited testing so far, the actual number of infected people is likely much higher than that.
"I think the public needs to understand that these numbers are informative in terms of the trajectory of the disease in our province, but they are not an absolute reflection of the amount of disease that is already in our province,” he said.
A group of doctors at Royal Columbian Hospital penned a letter to public health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.
"We need to act now to prevent a catastrophic number of preventable deaths," the letter states. "At our current rate of spread, our hospitals will be overwhelmed within a few weeks without drastic action.”
The doctors say the public has to take this more seriously and nobody should be socializing in person with anyone they do not live with – and that includes meeting in public places.
"I absolutely agree with them,” said Henry on Saturday. “I know it’s a challenge. And I know many people are concerned. It’s the unknown and we’re in that period of time where we’re going to see people who were exposed a week, two weeks ago, becoming ill and we can’t control that.”
Some health-care workers who did not want to be named because they are not authorized to speak to the media fear there will not be enough masks, gloves and protective face shields for front-line staff when the expected wave of new patients hits hospitals.
But Henry says those concerns are unfounded.
"We do have sufficient supplies of personal protective equipment; we do have those in place now,” she said. “And we will ensure that we have everything that we need as we are going forward with this."