The View From Canada
But if we are to survive as a species, our collective conscience begs for a reboot and a resync
By Dr S. Nosib
“It is not the strongest who survive, not the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” — Charles Darwin
Viruses, the most rudimentary form of life, have survived evolution by mutation. By comparison, 99% of all other species that have ever lived on Earth have gone extinct.
Towards the end of January, I was flying home to Canada after having completed an annual work trip. I had, at that point, read about a new viral outbreak in China but at half a world away, China’s problems were none of my concern and I did not even bother remembering the virus’s name.
Covid-19 goes worldwide, reaches Canada
Three very short months since, Covid-19 is notorious worldwide and has claimed the lives of tens of thousands and has brought the world to a standstill.
Saskatchewan, the province where I practise, has about 160 confirmed cases with a few among them critically ill. Driving down empty roads to go work in a hospital where visitors are no longer allowed is extremely disquieting. The fear of the unknown was palpable among the staff. For the first time in my career, I feel fear going into the hospital and interacting with potentially infected patients.
A curling bonspiel (tournament) in Alberta: ‘The outbreaks in both the provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta were traced to a curling bonspiel hosted and attended by a group of physicians from both provinces’. Photo – golden-west-content.s3.us-east-1.amazonaws.com
Our local health authority has geared into action and health care personnel are being briefed regularly as the scenario continues to evolve. Covid teams and special resuscitation teams are on the expectative and a Covid ICU has been rapidly isolated from the rest of the hospital.
On a larger scale, it is estimated that the Canadian outbreak shall reach the 10,000 cases mark over the next few days. The dead are increasing daily and are at about 100 currently. The hardest hit provinces are Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia whose population constitute two-thirds of all Canadians. Of note, these provinces are home to the most Mauritian expats in Canada and their community has no doubt been impacted by Covid. Even the First Lady, Sophie Trudeau, was not spared. Only the Northern territories of Canada remain free of Covid but this is bound to change over the coming days.
Impact on medical care and society
Medical discourse in this country has had a paradigm shift. Rationing of care, a novel concept, has become a major topic of discussion amongst various medical and ethical circles. Simply put, it means which patient should be prioritized in case we run short of ventilators for life support. ER (emergency) physicians are under duress all over the country and apprehensive. But true to their Hippocratic Oath, they are delivering care selflessly. Acute shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as well as life- support equipment makes the situation even more challenging.
Panic and fear have sparked irrational behaviour. Seemingly, hoarding toilet paper has become a new status symbol and this pseudo-precious item has disappeared from shelves in stores across the country. As paradoxical as it may seem, the outbreaks in both the provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta were traced to a curling bonspiel hosted and attended by a group of physicians from both provinces.
Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia are home to the most Mauritian expats in Canada and their community has no doubt been impacted by Covid-19
However, the vast majority of people worldwide have been acting with great compassion and selflessness. Frontline workers of all disciplines are continuing to provide essential services, physicians are exposing themselves to the virus to continue to treat patients, and elders are sacrificing themselves so young children can get life-saving ventilatory support.
No doubt humanity will survive Covid-19 but if we are to survive as a species, our collective conscience begs for a reboot and a resync. Time will march on with or without us, it is only our continued ability to adapt, innovate, and collaborate that will see us into the future.There is no other way!
Shravankumar Nosib, MD, MSc, FRCPEd, FRCPC, Diplomate of the American Boards of Internal Medicine and Cardiovascular Medicine, with a Fellowship in Interventional Cardiology from Montreal Heart Institute left Mauritius nearly 30 years ago but visits regularly. He is currently a cardiologist in Canada at the Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon and at the University of British Columbia, as well as Visiting Cardiologist Bangalore & SSSIHMS, Puttaparthi, India.
* Published in print edition on 3 April 2020