Montreal

Quarantine diaries: An ICU doctor ponders how to keep 'the human agenda'

It is precisely in this moment that our humanity must rise up. We must care for the ill as people, not only as “COVID-positives,” says Dr. David Hornstein.

"We must care for the ill as people, not only as 'COVID-positives,'" says Dr. David Hornstein

An internal medicine and critical care specialist, Dr. David Hornstein is a member of the intensive care team at the Montreal General Hospital. (David Gutnick/CBC)

CBC Montreal wants to know how you are living these days. What are you doing differently? Have you learned, realized or observed anything? 

Here is our next instalment of our series, Quarantine diaries: Life in the time of COVID-19, written by Dr. David Hornstein. He is part of the intensive care team at the Montreal General Hospital.


This is going to be quite a ride for all of us.

I just hope we can remember the "human agenda." I was pondering this the other night, before I had to go into the Jewish General Hospital to provide back-up support.

We are making a very big ask of our health care system. Our teams are being called upon to care for a large number of very sick people in a short period of time.

The pandemic demands that we impose extraordinary measures to isolate these patients: we don personal protection equipment, we sequester patients from one another. We prohibit visitors. Health care workers face enormous demands — both physical and psychological — that make it very difficult to keep that "human agenda" front of mind.

It is precisely in this moment that our humanity must rise up. We must care for the ill as people, not only as "COVID-positives."

When getting too close is expressly forbidden, when physical barriers isolate us and get in the way of good communication, we have to reach beyond those barriers and connect with our patients.

We must reach out regularly to family members who are being kept at a distance, and we must seek ways to use technology to draw us closer.

For instance, on our intensive care wards, we are making use of an electronic tablet and video calling, to allow family and patients to see and hear each other, to connect a bit across the distance.

We are listening to the rapidly evolving knowledge about this disease and adapting our restrictions in light of new knowledge, particularly of contagion.

Finally, for our sickest who will not survive, we need to remember that the most important thing is to have a loved one nearby.

We are at the outset of a very big "ask" of our health care system.

This is a moment for all health care workers' humanity to shine.

More Quarantine diaries:

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