April 16: “An unprecedented but preventable crisis”

I am tired after my weeks on service. But I am more angry than tired.

An ICU doctor I respect very much said on a panel yesterday that every single person she’s treated for severe COVID-19 has been racialized. Every single one. Let that sink in.

This is not dissimilar from my experience these past few weeks and during the second wave. The people getting sick are the very same people who had structural barriers to getting tested, could not work from home, could not afford to isolate without paid sick leave, and now cannot access a vaccine in a system where they are supposedly a priority.

When you walk through a COVID ward in the GTA (whether it’s in a community on fire or offloading communities on fire), you see who is suffering during the pandemic. Racialized people who are or live with essential workers. People who are forced to choose between health and livelihood, working in conditions that put them and their families at risk. People who experience structural societal barriers. People who are working at risk so that our society can still run. It is so incredibly obvious to us on the wards who is struggling for help. I am angry, sad, and disappointed that their needs and safety seem to invisible to people in power.

As cases surge and we talk about triaging health-care resources, like ICU beds, do you think these communities will all of a sudden be more visible?  Will our societal failure to address the upstream causes of poor health be accounted for in these disaster scenarios? I assume not.

These communities don’t need our sympathy. They need to be seen and heard and have policies enacted to protect them.

We’ve had a year to prepare, yet we still find ourselves in the same unprecedented but preventable crisis, scrambling to find solutions.

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Seema Marwaha


Seema Marwaha is a general internal medicine physician, educator, researcher and journalist in Toronto.

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