Cautious optimism in the face of COVID-19

Posted on Wednesday, April 29, 2020

des ambulances pres de l'entree d'urgence

As the number of diagnosed COVID-19 cases in Ottawa continued to rise in April, we checked in with Dr. Lorne Wiesenfeld, vice-dean of Postgraduate Medical Education at the Faculty of Medicine and a practicing emergency physician at the Ottawa Hospital. This is the second of two instalments.

The last time we talked you’d worked the first weekend in April. And here we are the last weekend in April. What's different?

The numbers in the emergency room have started to pick up — not so much patients with COVID-19, as people with other medical conditions who should be a seeking medical attention. So things are a bit busier, but hardly overwhelmed. Things are still quieter than usual.

When we talked earlier, you'd said it was the calm before the storm. Do you think the storm is coming, or do you think we've somehow slid under the radar and avoided that storm?

Oh, boy, that's a tough one. I think we're managing with some great advice, and a lot of people doing their part: from the administration, to provincial and municipal leaders, to the citizens of Ottawa. I'm still worried that it might happen, if everybody just suddenly goes straight out and resumes what they were doing back in February or January.  I'm worried, but I'm cautiously optimistic that we may be avoiding the worst of it. 

We're seeing news about outbreaks in nursing homes in Ottawa. How are health professionals being deployed to help out with the situation?

At the Ottawa Hospital, there are discussions on having support teams that could go out perhaps to nursing homes, to assist. As it stands right now, due to provincial rules, if any residents of a long-term care facility come to hospital and they're admitted during this pandemic, they cannot be repatriated after their hospital stay, back to the long-term care facility. If we could have teams that went out to support people in the long-term care homes, that might mean they may not need to be admitted to hospital.

There's also discussion of having teams of residents, postgraduate trainees, to go to these long-term care facilities to see how they can assist. While providing care to the people, we could also make sure that our trainees get the experience that is necessary for them to become even better doctors.

When you hear people talking about starting to ease the social distancing restrictions, what thoughts go through your mind?

Well, it's going to have to happen at some point. We can't do this forever, obviously, but what is the best time to do it? I guess we’ll only know in retrospect whether the time that was chosen was optimal or not. 

When I went out for a walk after my shift this Saturday afternoon, it looked like a regular spring day of any other year, unfortunately, with respect to social distancing. I think the beautiful day made people forget their troubles a bit. And I think people were forgetting that we're in the middle of a pandemic.

Lots of people are being mindful, but it's very difficult, especially for people who aren’t involved in the front line of health care. I just hope that whatever we do, we do it cautiously. Do it incrementally. We just don't open up, and everybody's life is back to normal. 

Any other thoughts or concerns?

We talk now the first wave and the second wave. Another wave is this: there are going to be all the people who were waiting for care, who didn't or couldn’t come in. All the delayed surgeries and postponed appointments. These people's conditions, their symptoms, are progressing as time goes on, and they're going to need care and there's going to be a backlog. This is something that's pushed us all back by over a month. But I don't think there's anything that anybody could have done to make that month of wait disappear.


Read our first interview with Dr. Wiesenfeld. 

The Faculty of Medicine is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Your generous support will advance our efforts.100% of your donation will directed to the Faculty of Medicine, COVID-19 Response Fund.

Help Combat COVID-19


Dr. Lorne Wiesenfeld

Dr. Lorne Wiesenfeld has been an emergency physician for 23 years.

child's drawing of a doctor

Thanks to people doing their part, we may be avoiding the worst of the pandemic. 


Back to top