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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Limited resources a concern in regional COVID-19 fight


During the course of the last month our worst fears regarding the worldwide advance of COVID-19 have materialized.

The entire population of the planet, including medical experts, now realize that our initial reservations and expectations have been grossly underestimating the severity and potential mortality of this new threat to world health and social stability.

In recent weeks (and using all the current medical and epidemiological knowledge, plus the considerable combined expertise at their disposal) our entire local medical team, including our doctors, nurses, pharmacists, supportive personnel, and numerous other responsible citizens, have done an amazing job of tentatively preparing for the expected inevitable surge in numbers of seriously infected members of our community.

Bearing in mind the recent advance of (and the daily increases in) numbers of infected people, both country and worldwide, we now have to expect and accept that there is a high likelihood of an overwhelming demand for local services in our community in the very near future.

In rural hospitals (such as our own here in Athabasca, Boyle, Barrhead and Westlock) we have limited resources as far as artificial respiration/ventilators (plus support personnel) are concerned, meaning that when the expected increase of cases eventually hit this area, we will not be able to treat the very ill here in our hospitals any more.

If numbers of infected patients continue to rise uncontrollably in the rural areas and our cities at the same time, this leaves us with little to zero opportunity to transfer any people out of town.

In other words, in a worst case scenario and if the spread is left unchecked, we might be looking at severely overloading of available medical and other support systems not only here in town, but also province and countrywide.

But we also now know that we are able to contain the spread of this virus by surprisingly simple methods, bearing in mind that these are currently the ONLY weapons and measures we can apply to slow down and stop the pandemic.

May I hereby urge you to yield to the following already well known warnings and advice from experts world wide (in the medical and epidemiological field) and our own health authorities (Health Canada and Alberta Health Services), by very simply:

1. Staying at home, unless you really have to go out for food or urgent medical help, i.e. self isolation,
2. Avoiding socializing unnecessarily with others, i.e social separation,
3. Avoiding gatherings, shopping in groups, crowding services, i.e. physical distancing
4. Washing your hands and taking precautions when sneezing, as described, i.e. personal hygiene.

5. Stocking up on your regular chronic (diabetes, hypertension, cholesterol) medications, and using them as before.

6. Using the Internet and social media intelligently and wisely.

7. Refraining from spreading alarming postings on social media; it serves absolutely no purpose, creates unnecessary anxiety and causes unfounded panic.

Here is a very helpful website and tool for the Internet:

Please remember, this is an evolving process, so information given today might differ vastly from what we may want to spread next week.

Together we can overcome this extremely severe threat and live through difficult days ahead.

These coming weeks will determine the Canadian and global course of COVID-19; we are in the fortunate position to make a difference.

It is vital that we as individuals do locally what we can to minimize it’s effect.

Please take care of yourselves. Please take care of each other. Together we can make this work.

Sincerely, and may God bless us all.

MD Leon Burger
Community Medical Director,
North Zone AHS, Athabasca