Every day I look at all the COVID-19 news and statistics that I can find. I’ve turned into one of those people busy checking every online report and comparing data. I’m not surfing news channels yet, but it’s close.
I read about the trends in COVID-19 infection. I’m relieved to hear that, in British Columbia where my daughter lives, the number of new cases is leveling off. The actions of the Alberta government make me feel that my stepsons and their families will be safe. I am incredulous at the talk of mass graves in New York City and at the idea of Easter services in the United States.
But mostly I am terrified about the public health news in Ontario regarding testing for COVID-19. Ontario’s testing rate is lower than that of any other part of Canada.
As a citizen of Ontario, as a doctor in Ontario, I am fed up with our low rate of testing. It enrages me that this obvious measure is not being implemented to the extent that is necessary to keep us safe and well. The research suggests that aggressive testing is one of the most important measures to be implemented in a pandemic and Ontario is NOT doing this so far.
In much more restrained terms than I am using here, I mentioned this on twitter last night. This was the answer back to me from a colleague: “Every test done also consumes PPE. This is in my mind when deciding about who to test. Probably on the mind of many others.” This person is a primary care specialist and it’s not fair that she has to think about this.
Every time we examine another instance when the management of the COVID-19 Pandemic seems highly questionable, the reason is that public health is underfunded – despite our knowledge gained from SARS, H1N1, Ebola.
What has to be done to ensure strong public health capacity is well–known and well-researched and I learned it in med school in the 1970’s. Governments must fund public health – every dollar spent on public health, we are told, saves $7 in the future.
We will pay the price for not funding public health, by not testing enough people for COVID-19: patients at high risk who have no symptoms, health care providers and caregivers. Governments are gambling with citizens’ lives if they don’t do this.
The one glimmer of hope today is that, other than me and my health care colleagues and patients
and their advocates, another Ontario citizen is frustrated: the Premier.
“My patience is running thin,” the Premier said.
Well, sir, my colleagues and I were at that point weeks ago, but I can see that you’re trying and I’m grateful for it.
(This is an image from my city’s testing centre. Thanks to those who are working there for doing this important work.)