Opinion

Sorry Premier Ford, but you passed the buck long ago

No, Premier Ford, the buck stops with me.

Does Doug Ford want us to feel sorry for him? In his most recent apology, the Ontario premier said one of his favourite phrases: the buck stops with me. At this point, Ford sounds like a broken record, using meaningless catchphrases while ignoring experts. Reminding us all of his ultimate responsibility for his actions – or rather inactions – is insulting.

While Ford is responsible for the COVID-19 wildfire ripping through hospitals like mine, he deserves no pity. Because of his inactions, he’s passed the buck on – and he’s passed it squarely to me and my colleagues in GTA hospitals.

I’m the one diagnosing COVID in the emergency room, begging people to go home and sleep on their stomachs to aerate lung tissue spared by the virus. “If you get worse, come back,” I say. “We don’t have room for you here.”

I’m the one reviewing X-ray and CT images, recognizing the only new disease I’ve had to learn since medical school with ease. “That’s COVID,” I say aloud as I stare at the black-and-white snowstorm on the viewer.

I’m the one calling a terrified wife sitting in her car in the parking lot of the hospital to update her: “He’s being admitted to the ICU because he requires a lot of oxygen,” I say, trying to patiently reassure her while reaching for the next chart.

“Everything is COVID now!” says the doc next to me when asked to risk-stratify a COVID swab order. Now we don’t need swabs. If you’re sick, it’s because you have COVID.

I’m the one heading upstairs after my gruelling ER shift to work the ICU overnight. “It’s time,” I say to bed 14, squinting my eyes to convey compassion. “Your sats are too low – the oxygen isn’t enough. I’m going to put you on a ventilator now.”

I’m the one gowning and gloving and masking and goggling and getting six inches away from your face to place a breathing tube. Just before I sedate you, I say, “Don’t worry, I’ll take really good care of you.”

I’m the one holding back tears when you say, “OK, I trust you,” knowing those might be the last words you ever speak.

I’m the one calling your distressed family members saying, “I’ve never had to do this before, but I have to send him to Kingston so we have room here for those coming through the front door.”

Man. Woman. Young. Old. Over and over and over.

Dexamethasone, remdesivir, tocilizumab, ventilation, sedation, pulmonary hygiene, dialysis, echocardiography, blah blah blah. Fourteen years of training and the virus keeps winning, keeps taking control of you and us until you can’t get oxygen into your bloodstream.

I’m the one who says, “We can stop now,” the one who fills out your death certificate, the one who calls your wife one last time to tell her that her greatest fear has occurred under my watch, that the virus beat me and my team.

I’m the one who comes home after working 110 hours in seven days and just starts crying.

I’m crying because when you die of COVID in my ICU, the buck stops with me.

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4 Comments
  • Ken Wayne says:

    Hi Maggie. Fully agree with you. The Ontario Government did and continues to do a very poor job of managing the Covid pandemic.
    Wondering if you are the same Maggie Cook RN I knew in the late 70’s and early 80’s.

  • Linda C. Murphy says:

    I cannot imagine the stress and sorrow that you have been experiencing with your work for well over a year.

    The early warnings signs of COVID-19 in China had me thinking of all the research reports I read about the impact of the Toronto experience with SARS and terrified of what might be headed our way – but thankful and confident that we could and would draw on the lessons being learned in China and elsewhere and on our SARS experience.

    It is hard to accept that the gravity of the situation – which continues to this day – seems to have been lost on too many Canadians and policy makers. And the inanity of too many of our neighbours to the south of us and in other countries less equipped to fight it, seems likely to extend our fight against this virus and its variants.

    I thank you and all the other health care workers who have kept our system working through all of this.

  • Gary Westover says:

    Hard to read. But harder to write, and eminently harder to live, I’m sure. Please just get through this, and then we’ll deal with Ford.

  • Maggie Cook says:

    That is too hard to believe, but being that I am a retired RN, I can very well believe how exasperating it must be shift after shift seeing and treating sick people and also now the dreaded Covid-19 patients who enter hospitals thinking they are going to die and they are dying day after day, men, women and young adults, now a child has died of this virus. What should have been implemented a long time ago was a complete shutdown of stores, parks and visitations of all kinds, Wearing masks and washing our hands, staying 6 Ft apart, yes this all helps, but I see people all the time disobeying these regulations in stores, on streets and in parks, in all public places, gatherings of more than allowed, etc. etc. I am tearing up reading your concerns, this must stop now and we as individuals must do our part to make it all go away, thanks for sharing your story, let’s do our due diligence and erase the virus all together.

Author

Blair Bigham

Contributor

Blair Bigham is an emergency and critical care physician in California. He trained at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. He is a deputy editor of Healthy Debate.

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