Terry Pursell, President and CEO, North York General Foundation

COVID-19 Updates: Message from the President – May 1, 2020

Dear Friends,

Today was chosen by the Canadian Medical Association as Physicians’ Day in honour of Dr. Emily Stowe, the first female physician to practice in Canada. More affectionately known as “Doctors’ Day”, we are so very fortunate at North York General to be cared for by over 500 hospitalists, 300+ family doctors and their incredible colleagues. In these days of managing and treating COVID-19 patients, many specialists are on the front line, including family and emergency doctors, psychiatrists, radiologists, critical care physicians, palliative care doctors, surgeons, oncologists, OBGYNS, internal medicine physicians, pathologists, paediatricians and anesthesiologists.

In fact, when it comes to treating COVID-19 patients, no one is closer to a patient’s airway than an anesthesiologist, especially when intubating a patient. Intubation involves inserting a tube through the patient’s mouth and then into the airway. This is done in order to place a patient on a ventilator to assist with breathing during anesthesia, sedation or a severe illness such as COVID-19.

Our anesthesiologists have been leading our 24/7 intubation teams during this ongoing pandemic, and I thought it might be of interest to highlight this “behind-the-scenes” frontline specialty.

On this Doctors’ Day, I connected with Dr. Charles Knapp, a member of North York General’s incredible team of anesthesiologists.

Dr. Charles Knapp MD, FRCPC, North York General

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.

Over these past several weeks, if you are like me, you have been thinking of the doctors who have cared for you or your loved ones. I decided I would take the time to make a few Say Thanks donations in their honour and let them know how much I appreciate their compassion and professionalism. Maybe you will consider doing the same, so here is the link to our Say Thanks Program, NYGHFoundation.ca/SayThankswhere you can make a donation and send a personal message of gratitude.

Care Adds Up

Care Adds Up - COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund

As always, if you are interested in learning more about COVID-19-related issues, please go to the hospital’s website at nygh.on.ca/covid-19-updates and remember to access our self-assessment tool at covid19toronto.ca to help guide you if you or a family member are feeling unwell.

With this weekend’s weather finally starting to look like spring, I hope you will find the time to (safely) enjoy the sunshine and recharge.

My best to you and yours, and #staysafe,

Terry Pursell
Terry Pursell
President & CEO

P.S. If you or someone you know is considering supporting North York General, please go to NYGHtacklescovid19.com, which highlights our Emergency Response Fund to address current and post-pandemic preparedness.