Charles Knapp MD, FRCPC
What should the community know about the critical role of anesthesiologists in treating COVID-19?
Anesthesiologists are specialist physicians who are the airway experts, and we lead the COVID-19 intubation team for the whole hospital. At the same time, we provide anesthesia services for patients requiring emergent surgery during this pandemic, and we continue to provide 24-hour epidural services for women in labour.
How has the pandemic changed the way anesthesiologists are working?
For the safety of patients, staff and physicians, we are approaching all patients as potentially contagious, and thus we are wearing enhanced personal protective equipment (PPE) to ensure that everyone is safe from contamination. This PPE is cumbersome, uncomfortable, yet crucial in ensuring that everyone on the team properly protected.
What has surprised you about the virus?
We are all surprised about how contagious COVID-19 is, and we now realize that this is not just a bad case of the flu. This virus knows no boundaries, as it affects people of all ages and has various ways of presenting itself. It is astonishing the speed at which it moves and how quickly a patient’s condition can deteriorate.
Have you ever experienced anything like this?
Never in my 36-year medical career have I experienced anything like this, even though I lived through SARS here at NYGH in 2003. SARS killed 44 people in Canada, and there were no deaths in the U.S. This virus has profoundly changed the way we practice medicine not just here but globally.