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Physicians vs. COVID-19

When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in Nova Scotia, physicians stepped up. They knew that no matter what, Nova Scotians would still need access to health care – whether that meant a routine check-up, a flu shot or life-saving measures for patients with the virus.Here is a snapshot of how four physicians from across the province changed the way they worked during the pandemic.

Dr. Tim Woodford, Liverpool:
To this day (fingers crossed) we haven’t yet had to deal with a COVID-19 patient at Queens General Hospital in Liverpool, thanks to the amazing job by public health and the political leadership in this province. We are ready, though. When COVID-19 knocked at our door in March 2020, the leadership of Nova Scotia Health and the amazing knowledge of Dr. George Kovacs on airway management paved the way. At Queens General, we’ve been doing mock codes for many years. Nurses Mike Westhaver and Rachel Wong (and pig larynxes donated by LPN – and farmer – Krystal Mailman) helped lay the groundwork for a new scenario: the COVID airway. We eventually could don, sweat, intubate and doff with the best of them! The enthusiasm and dedication of nursing and medical staff made this possible. We continue to train throughout the hospital for that potential COVID-19 airway, hoping it never comes. As a team, our airway preparedness has never been better.

Dr. Steven MacDougall, Sydney:
Island Family Health Care held two successful drive-thru flu shot clinics in October and November 2020. In each three-hour period we gave over 400 flu shots. If we’d had more vaccine, we could have given 600 to 800 flu shots each time.Drive-thru was a safer method of administering flu shots during a pandemic. For instance, a 100-year-old patient who lives out of town was happy to have her son drive her through our clinic. We adjusted things because the clinic was outside, including getting a patient consent form and using different techniques to give the shot as patients held their arm out the car window. We used two parking lots in front of our office and gave the shots under the car port at the building’s main entrance. This could be a model for giving COVID-19 vaccines. We were able to give shots more efficiently than in the office, where the room must be cleaned between patients. Our five vaccinators were Drs. Steven MacDougall and Susan MacLeod, resident Dr. Stephanie Cheon and two members of nursing staff.

Dr. Leisha Hawker, Halifax:
Amid this unprecedented pandemic and the shutdown of many relied-upon services, the North End Community Health Association was able to pivot to protecting our community and patient population. We continued to provide primary care to our patients, offering virtual and in-person appointments when necessary. We registered patients to our new patient portal, which allowed secure messaging between patients and their health-care providers. Members of our team established a managed alcohol program that supported folks experiencing chronic health and social stigma related to alcohol use. We ensured the most at-risk, immunocompromised people were safely housed and provided food and other supplies to those in need. We offered mobile COVID-19 testing to shelters and other priority populations as directed by public health. Overnight, North End Community Health Centre, Mobile Outreach Street Health, Housing First and our Mobile Health Clinic joined the front line, working with our partners in health care and community services.

Dr. Ryan Sommers, Truro:
To stop the spread of the virus and protect health-care facilities, we had to test individuals and trace all cases aggressively. Our labs moved to a 24-7 operation. Medical officers of health (MOH) switched to shift work – something I would have never imagined as a public health doctor. We routinely worked until 1 or 2 a.m., providing advice to public health nurses. My wife and I reversed roles. She’s an emergency medicine physician, and I would regularly text her late at night asking when she’d be home from a late-night shift. During the first wave, she was the one asking me to come home and get sleep. March and April were brutal. At one point, we moved to a 1-in-3 call schedule. We had many situations in which case and contact management was incredibly taxing. I thought working as a family doctor during H1N1 was challenging. The first wave of COVID-19 doubled my workload. It was the hardest I’d ever worked in my career.

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Nova Scotia COvid-19 quick links

Getting vaccinated against COVID-19
List of COVID-19 exposures in Nova Scotia
Getting tested for COVID-19
Public Health mobile testing unit locations
Rapid testing locations
Self-isolating guidelines
Mental health and well-being

Nova Scotia COVID-19 resources
Download the free COVID Alert app