This is a challenging President’s Message for me to write as I currently have a beloved family member admitted to the hospital for an acute condition. Needless to say, this is a difficult situation on a number of levels and my family is experiencing them directly.
Prior to this pandemic, a hospital stay would be stressful primarily due to the condition itself, its severity, and factors related to resources available for high quality patient care. During this pandemic though, patient care is impacted even more, and my family’s experience today was just one example.
My family member who is currently a patient was required to have a COVID-19 swab today and while the results are pending, no one is permitted to visit. Not only that, but results are expected to take longer than usual given the high volume of COVID-19 tests being processed in Alberta these days. Essentially the means, the hospital staff are required to ask me to leave my family member alone in the hospital during this critical time until further notice. Of course, making this request was not of the staff’s choosing, they currently have no choice. In fact, they described how fatiguing it is to have to tell patients and their families this exact message over and over again since COVID-19 arrived in Alberta.
As a family physician, I understood the reasoning, but I still left reluctantly feeling helpless and dismayed. I know my presence, company, and advocacy is appreciated by my family member and my being unable to stay was upsetting to him. All of the health care workers who I encountered as I proceeded to leave expressed their apologies too. Having to do this did nothing good for anyone’s mental health today. Given the situation though, none of us had any choice.
I had to remind myself though that Albertans do have some choice. COVID-19 is controlling so much of how we practice and administer health care these days, but while I left the hospital today feeling helpless, I also realized that we have the ability to regain control if we make the right choices including vaccinating against COVID-19.
Pandemic aside we know as family physicians, we play a key role in helping patients make informed choices and decisions regarding their well-being. I wonder though, if during this current 4th wave, we are experiencing fatigue when having conversations about COVID-19 vaccines with patients and promoting vaccination, similar to how the hospital staff described their fatigue to me this morning. Would the overall pandemic situation be improved by now if there were no vaccine hesitancy and our patients all made the right choice?
I encourage us all, as Alberta family physicians, to continue to speak up for vaccines, thereby encouraging our patients to make the right choice and vaccinate. The health and well-being of our patients, ourselves, and our health care system as a whole are at stake. This includes my own family as we speak.
I would like you to know that while my family is experiencing this challenge, our ACFP family has been more than supportive and kind. I would like to thank our ACFP staff and members for their comforting messages, encouragement, and listening ears. (All of that and freezable meals!) We are part of a great organization, and I am proud that we choose to be ACFP members.
Sudha Koppula BSc, MD, MClSc, CCFP, FCFP
Alberta College of Family Physicians