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COVID Chronicles : ‘Nobody works in a void especially in the Emergency Department’

Dr. Paul Scotton, Chief of Emergency Medicine
Having worked at our hospital for 32 years, Dr. Paul Scotton, Chief of Emergency Medicine, has shared in many of the more difficult times in our history. This pandemic was certainly a challenge unlike any other he had experienced in his career.

Initially, the greatest concern was keeping up with the changes in how to treat patients. Physicians and all health care professionals needed to stay on top of frequent updates in directives and guidance. It felt like they were flying by the seat of their pants.

While many feared the unknown that the virus presented the Emergency Department was in a unique position. “In the Emergency Department we accepted the pandemic and knew that this was what we were in medicine for. We came together and dealt with it just like all the other uncertainties we are used to combating in the Emergency Department,” shared Dr. Scotton.

In the early days of the pandemic, we were told that people were afraid to come to the hospital.  The fear of contradicting COVID-19 outweighed getting the care they needed. With work slowing down many physicians in the Emergency Department volunteered to help set up and staff the COVID-19 Assessment Centre at Headwaters.

Eventually, more patients started to come to hospital again including those who were positive for the virus. Early on even clinics were not seeing patients who had COVID-19 and the Emergency Department was the only line of defense helping them.

The most impactful moment for Dr. Scotton from the early days of the pandemic was when the Canadian Forces Snowbirds flew over the hospital and along Highway 9 as a way of expressing gratitude for all health care workers. The gesture was truly touching and something he will never forget.

Having now made it through multiple waves of this pandemic, the physician team has learned a lot just like every other team at the hospital.

“In Wave 6 we are worried about having enough staff. As more physician’s test positive there is a concern about whether we will be able to keep our Emergency Department open. We have been lucky so far with covering shifts and going to the on-call list,” shared Dr. Scotton.

This pandemic has been a team effort from displays of support from the community to our teams helping one another as we care for loved ones with COVID-19 and ourselves.

“Nobody works in a void especially in the Emergency Department. It takes an entire team, and I am grateful for our staff and physicians who have come together like they have,” shared Dr. Scotton.

Looking ahead to when we are past this pandemic, Dr. Scotton’s hope is that we will have learned enough to never have to endure it again. There will always be a new challenge ahead, but hopefully, enough lessons will have been learned the hard way this time around that we will be better prepared in the future.