CKHA doctors anxious over COVID-19 surge

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The doctor responsible for safe patient care at both the Chatham and Wallaceburg emergency departments is raising a red flag about the upcoming wave of COVID-19 cases.

Dr. Dax Biondi, Chief and Program Medical Director of Emergency Medicine, is also the coordinator of the COVID-19 assessment centre running 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. seven days a week at 47 Emma St., next to the emergency department in Chatham.

Biondi told Blackburn News that emergency room doctors are very anxious because they’re deeply worried about running out of personal protective equipment before the COVID-19 wave hits in about two to three weeks. He said people continue coming to the emergency department after the assessment centre closes to get assessed and that is needlessly burning though protective masks, shields, and gowns that healthcare workers at Chatham-Kent Health Alliance need to get through the worst stretch of the coronavirus expected to hit soon.

Biondi said he wants people to stay home if they don’t have a fever or a cough, or call their family doctor first if they show those symptoms.

He said healthcare workers are OK and feel safe for now but many feel like they’re standing on the shore waiting for the wave to hit.

Dr. Biondi believes the risk of COVID-19 is no longer low in Chatham-Kent because there aren’t enough swabs to test people. Based on what happened in China, 5-10 per cent of people infected with COVID-19 get really sick and one to two per cent die. He also said he feels the uncertainty is at an all-time high right now and the healthcare system must be better prepared. The doctor said CKHA has eight ventilators for 100,000 people, which is nowhere near what is needed during this unprecedented pandemic.

Biondi said the new COVID-19 assessment centre in Chatham saw 30-35 people a day during its first week.

On the bright side, he said turn around times for test results are faster now than they were just a week ago. Biondi said they take 24-48 hours now compared to five to six days just a week ago.

Biondi said his staff is healthy and ready right now and the hospital is not at capacity and he wants to keep it that way because there is no outside help coming if local healthcare workers get sick.