Toronto shootings take toll on hospital staff, emergency room doctor says
Dr. James Maskalyk is the author of Life on the Ground Floor: Letters from the Edge of Emergency Medicine
Trying to save the lives of people shot in Toronto takes an emotional toll on hospital doctors and nurses, said Dr. James Maskalyk, an emergency room physician at St. Michael's Hospital.
"As a human being, I can testify to the sadness of being in a trauma room when someone dies from it," said Dr. Maskalyk during an interview on CBC Radio's Metro Morning on Monday.
Grief that follows a shooting death is not confined to family members and friends of victims, according to Maskalyk.
It envelopes hospital staff as well because staff know that, when a person dies of gunfire, the lives of everyone, the dead, the injured, families, friends, and even the shooter, will never be the same. Gun violence creates much sadness, he said.
While staff do their work, shocked and grieving loved ones are often at the hospital. The environment can be intense, he said. Afterwards, images can reoccur in thoughts and dreams of staff, he added.
'Very human part that we endure'
"There's a certain emotional toll that it takes on the people who are working there. We practise for this. We're prepared for it. But there's also that very human part that we endure."
Maskalyk spoke after two shootings on the weekend that claimed the lives of two more men, one block apart in North York. A shooting early Sunday killed a man, 25, near Driftwood Avenue and Jane Street, and a shooting early Monday killed a man, a block north at Shoreham Court and Shoreham Drive.
The deaths are the city's 53rd and 54th homicides of the year, according to Toronto police.
"Multiple shootings stretch us thin," he said. "Things really get backed up for us. People wait longer, which is frustrating for them. Frustration levels go up for everybody."
Hospitals react to 'snippet of information'
When a shooting occurs, emergency crews are called, and paramedics who arrive at the scene alert a hospital that a patient is being transported, he said. Paramedics report the location of the shooting and the severity of injury.
"We get a snippet of information from the medics on the scene. And they contact the triage nurses at the hospital to help them prepare for their arrival," he said. "Depending on that piece of information, the nurse at the triage desk activates the trauma call. The trauma code goes out to members of the trauma team, including people like myself."
The triage nurse will be told whether the injury is considered tier 1, which means grievously injured and unstable, or tier 2, which means less severely injured and more stable. In tier 1 cases, an operating room could be opened to prepare for surgery. A surgeon could be called. In tier 2 cases, staff are more likely to assess the condition of the patient once he or she is in the trauma room, before preparing for surgery. It's more of a wait and see situation, he said.
All of this happens quickly, he agreed.
Entry wound small, damage much larger
Bullet can cause major internal damage, hitting bone and tissue, and patients can bleed profusely. While a gunshot wound may appear as a small entry wound, the damage inside is much larger, he said.
With files from Metro Morning