Dr. Phil Shin

Planning for the unknown

As North York General Hospital’s Chief of Medicine and Medical Director of Critical Care, Dr. Phil Shin has played a critical role in planning ahead for an expected influx of COVID patients to the hospital. At the same time, he and his wife, North York General family physician Dr. Angie Hong have been trying to balance running a household of three daughters aged 11, 13 and 15.

The COVID pandemic first hit me after learning how badly Italy has been affected and seeing my colleagues’ firsthand health care reports. It hit home for me even more after seeing how New York City and the rest of the U.S. have been struggling.

So far, most people who tested positive for COVID at North York General have been discharged home to self-isolate. However, we have seen a number of patients requiring admission to the hospital and some have required critical care, including life support. I do remain concerned that our health care capacity could become overwhelmed.

Over the last couple of months, my colleagues and I have been planning for this influx and anticipating changes within the Department of Medicine and the ICU. In terms of staffing, we’ve provided additional training for nurses, reorganized physician call schedules and are planning to redeploy physicians from other departments. In addition, we’ve planned what to do if any of our physicians have to self-isolate.

We also plan to increase bed capacity so we can keep our current ICU open and dedicate it to caring for COVID patients. This would mean shifting patients without COVID but still requiring critical care to the post-anesthesia care unit, which would serve as a second ICU.

While there’s certainly a sense of anxiety in the Department of Medicine and the ICU, it’s been important to channel this feeling into constructive approaches to prepare for all different scenarios. Not only are the teams I oversee experiencing some fear, my family is too. My wife Angie is also a physician at North York General, so we’re both naturally concerned about putting our three daughters at risk. Our children are also old enough to understand the seriousness of the situation. But we’ve stressed to them that we’re both taking the proper precautions at work to protect ourselves, like wearing personal protective equipment (PPE). We know that if we take the appropriate precautions, we will keep our children safe.

Because we’re both physicians, it’s been challenging for Angie and me to leave work at work and balance work life with family life. The two of us often have serious discussions about the pandemic, but we and our kids are trying to stay positive and maintain some sense of normalcy during this abnormal time. For example, we’ve been reserving meal times to talk about things besides the pandemic and forming routines for exercise and doing school work. We’ve been trying our best to cherish the extra time we have together.

Warm regards,

Dr. Phil Shin
Chief of Medicine and Medical Director of Critical Care
North York General Hospital