Front-line ER doctor says health-care workers are preparing for 'hordes of people' with COVID-19

Dr. Paul Bradford, an emergency room and trauma physician at Windsor Regional Hospital, says health-care workers with his organization are preparing for the possibility that COVID-19 cases in the region will skyrocket. 

'It's just trying to get ready for what we're going to be facing,' says Dr. Paul Bradford

Dr. Paul Bradford is an emergency room and trauma physician with Windsor Regional Hospital. (Submitted by Paul Bradford)

Dr. Paul Bradford, an emergency room and trauma physician at Windsor Regional Hospital, says health-care workers with his organization are preparing for the possibility that COVID-19 cases in the region will skyrocket. 

Bradford says medical staff have been working upwards of 18 hours everyday in order to make sure that both COVID-19 and regular patients are able to receive the care they need, as well as prepare for the possibility that "hordes of people" might be diagnosed with coronavirus. 

"It's just trying to get ready for what we're going to be facing," he said. "We are seeing some case presentations already, and I think what we want to do is just make sure that we're prepared and take all the information we can from all the different organizations and really get ready to do all the work we currently do."

In addition to setting up areas in the hospital to provide care for COVID-19 patients, Bradford said plans are being made to house and treat more patients.

"The bigger concern — what all our staff feel — is that we will have everything we need and have we thought of everything we should have thought of," he said. 

The Windsor Regional Hospital's Met campus has isolation areas set up in the emergency department to care for COVID-19 probable and positive patients. (Windsor Regional Hospital)

Though provinces across the country and reporting more confirmed cases daily — and even though the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit confirmed the region's fourth case on Wednesday — Bradford said he's not too worried about catching COVID-19.

Listen to Dr. Paul Bradford's interview with Windsor Morning host Tony Doucette:

While most of us are isolated from any possible exposure to COVID-19, there are those who face the risk up-close every day.Tony speaks with ER and trauma physician Paul Bradford about his experiences. 9:39
Another isolation area at Windsor Regional Hospital's Met Campus, for those being treated with COVID-19. (Windsor Regional Hospital)

Instead, he said he wants to make sure that he's fully protected so that he won't have to take time off work. 

"You'd be sick and you wouldn't be able to be part of the team," he said. "We only have so many physicians — so many people — so the more of us that are down puts more stress on the other members of the team."

Bradford added that people can just as easily contract coronavirus "going to the store or going over to someone's house."

"You really could catch it just as simple as that," he said. "I know that there's the front-line bit of it and maybe there's a bit more of it here … but I think the risk is there for all of us right now."

Avoiding work isn't an option, says cross-border health-care worker

While health-care workers in Windsor-Essex prepare for the possibility of a greater COVID-19 outbreak, medical staff who live in the region but work in Michigan are doing their best to avoid spreading coronavirus on either side of the border. 

Danielle Bastien, a nurse practitioner at the Henry Ford Health System's main campus in Detroit, said she's taking every precaution she can to avoid spreading COVID-19, including immediately self-isolating when she returns home. 

"I can't say we're not bringing it home, because we are being exposed," she said. "But the thing is that we're doing our very best to wear masks, hand-washing, all of the steps you take to make sure that you don't get infected."

... People still aren't staying home and taking it seriously.- Danielle Bastien, Nurse practitioner, Henry Ford Health System main campus

Though she appreciates that some members of communities on both sides of the border would prefer it if cross-border workers stayed put, Bastien said avoiding work isn't an option for those who have already contracted COVID-19, as well as those who might still get sick. 

"[Canadians] make up, I think, around 40 per cent of the workforce over here," she said. "There's no option for us not to come to work. And the population obviously [in Michigan] is much higher and the COVID-19 cases are also much higher in incidence and prevalence themselves."

Staff at Windsor Regional Hospital have been working to make sure they have everything they need for an influx of coronavirus patients, said Bradford. (Windsor Regional Hospital)

Echoing Bradford's comments about catching COVID-19, Bastien said she feels safe at work, adding that she's more concerned about long lineups at grocery stores, as well as people who still refuse to take seriously the risk of coronavirus. 

"I think it's easy to point the finger at us and say 'They're bringing it home,' but people still aren't staying home and taking it seriously," Bastien said. 

Bastien said the lack of information about COVID-19 means she'll never feel completely secure, but added that she's able to consult with co-workers and managers if she ever had safety concerns while at work. 

And should further border restrictions come into effect, Bastien said there are facilities in Detroit that are offering discounted rates for people who need a place to stay. 

"We do have housing available too," she said. "We have also a ton of employees that are very generous about their spare rooms. There's always people saying, 'Hey, Canadian nurses, if you need somewhere to stay, stay here.'"

Listen to Danielle Bastien's interview with Afternoon Drive host Chris dela Torre:

The border between Canada and the United States is closed. That is, unless you’re an essential worker — and in Windsor, many of the thousands of cross-border commuters fall into that category. Danielle Bastien is one of them. She’s a Windsorite who works as a nurse practitioner at the Henry Ford Health System’s main campus in Detroit. 7:28

With files from Afternoon Drive and Windsor Morning