The COVID-19 fight is entering a critical phase – Peel residents need to know what healthcare administrators know
There is one fear that keeps even the surest parents off balance.
When conjured, it stokes a hollow, nauseous feeling in the stomach. Think of the queasy emptying out of yourself while bouncing in a plane through turbulence. Except it's way worse. It radiates every cell in the body, like a vibrating tuning fork.
No matter how hard one tries, it’s impossible to hide. Your eyes become desperate. Sad. Confused. The strain takes over your entire face.
It was the look Doug Ford, a father, projected a couple weeks ago, after hearing, like all other Ontarians who watched that Friday afternoon, the frightening worst-case scenario as the killer virus set in on the province. Some 80,000 residents could be infected by the end of April, and as many as 1,600 would die, without stricter measures.
In a province of 14.5 million people, Ford is the one who ultimately decides how to keep us all safe.
When a parent gets suddenly paralyzed by a threat, their nurturing instinct, programmed over millions of years of genetic mutation, gets triggered. Without knowing it, their body is taken over by a primordial fear, and one thought – protect the children.
Our big burly premier looked every bit the part of a scared parent that day.
Premier Doug Ford tells Ontario residents that as many as 1,600 people in the province could die by the end of April
He pleaded with us. Do the right thing, he begged, so future generations will one day look back at this story – one with dark chapters and a happy ending.
One of his messages was targeted at a particular group – the administrators and officials who run our hospitals. They play a crucial role in righting things, as the virus tries to overcome us. They are the gatekeepers of information vital to us all. We need to know how things are faring inside our hospitals. Not just to buoy our spirits, but so we can make important decisions for ourselves and loved ones.
“We need to listen,” Ford exhorted. “We need to listen to what the data tells us.”
And then we need to use that information. It might comfort us. It might scare us. But it’s ours. Our information. Taxpayers pay for it, and now Ford has demanded it be provided to Ontarians, so we can make key decisions about what we might need to do, God forbid.
Standing at the lectern that ominous afternoon, he stared directly at his constituents: "You deserve to see the same data that I see,” he guaranteed. “You deserve to know what I know."
He promised to get the numbers out, because he knew, good or bad, unlike in China, information is a right. And it holds the key to this crisis. Ford and his team understand that without full buy-in from the public, we all sink. But with it, we all make it through.
Getting that buy-in is impossible if people know the truth is being hidden away.
His call for transparency bathed him in a bright white light, softening his pre-crisis image.
The Pointer knows that Mississauga and Brampton residents need to have information about their hospitals, now more than ever, because they have told us.
Is Brampton Civic managing? Does Credit Valley have enough ICU beds? Are there enough ventilators at Mississauga Hospital?
We didn’t know the answers to these questions for weeks. The William Osler system that runs Civic and Brampton’s Peel Memorial facility, and Trillium Health Partners, which runs Credit Valley and Mississauga Hospital, have experienced challenges.
Both have had issues with capacity, as the two systems remain woefully underfunded, while the local population in both cities continues to rapidly climb.
Their hospitals ranked among the worst in the province for admission times out of the ER, as of November, with both Mississauga facilities at almost three times the Ontario target of eight hours while the average wait for admission from the ER to a bed at Civic was two and a half times higher than the Ontario target.
Waiting 20 to 24 hours to get a hospital bed was unacceptable, and though the lack of funding can be partly blamed on provincial governments, it’s up to Osler and Trillium to advocate for their communities.
Despite an inability to get a clear picture of how the hospitals were doing as the crisis mounted throughout March, The Pointer obtained bad news on our own.
As of April 1, according to data from Critical Care Services Ontario, Credit Valley hospital had six more patients in need of an ICU bed than the number of beds available, and the broader Central West health network Osler is a part of, faced a ventilator capacity shortage of 27 percent, with more patients in need of breathing assistance than the system could support.
But why did we have to find our own sources to get the information? As Premier Ford said, the information is available, so get it out to the public. It could be a matter of life or death.
The Pointer recognizes how stretched both Osler and Trillium are, and how hard all the staff are currently working. But even the heroic nurses and doctors have told us that the reality they’re facing needs to be seen by the public.
Frontline workers around the world have taken to social media, and in one case a doctor had to go to the New York Times, to release a shocking video she captured that showed things were not under control, as hospital administrators had previously suggested.
Yes, the image of a mobile morgue in the trailer of a cargo truck, backed up to the rear of the hospital, was a disturbing sight. But hospital bureaucrats need to understand that it’s not their job to filter reality right now or allay concern.
Their job, as their boss said, is to get the truth out to the public, and let them use the information to help understand what needs to be done.
Things at Osler and Trillium have turned around since the April 1 data obtained by The Pointer. Both systems, with the help of the provincial government, now have a healthy ICU and ventilator capacity. But we only know because of our own efforts to dig up the information through other sources.
This despite the directive by Premier Ford, who last week said to residents across the province, “There’s accountability at the end of the day; the buck stops here.”
The name Winston Churchill has been invoked hundreds of times these past couple months, as he remains the gold standard on how to handle stewardship in a time of crisis. He remained steadfast in saying the British people would never, never, never, give in to Hitler’s demands. Every day came another stirring speech.
While Ford shares none of Churchill’s rhetorical gifts, he has been a commanding presence during these past weeks – in stark contrast to the daily “performance” put on each afternoon by the former reality star, now acting as president of the United States.
We have all witnessed how not to behave toward the public. The picture of distortion, reputation management and damage control from the White House has been nothing short of sickening.
During a crisis, the general public wants the truth, not a fanciful version of it. Trump says he calls them like he sees them, which means Americans are being served information with a distorted twist. Ford, on the other hand, has been a revelation, a clearinghouse of information, who delivers it with humility and humanity. The lesson here: Leadership can set the public free, or leave it paralyzed with fear and revulsion.
Ford’s honest approach should be working its way down the food chain to other public officials and institutions, but that’s not exactly the case with the two healthcare networks that serve Brampton and Mississauga. Both have been found wanting.
The Pointer commends Osler for explaining the details this week of a COVID-19 outbreak at Brampton Civic that was declared April 10. But questions the previous three weeks went unanswered. Its website includes sparse updates, with crucial information missing and no breakdown by hospital to help local residents understand what is happening in their own healthcare community.
Trillium has done a better job, both with updates/releases on its website and in attempting to answer The Pointer’s questions on behalf of the public.
But we ask officials to try a little harder to live up to the premier’s promise to all Ontarians. It’s clear that administrators including communications staff are being run off their feet right now, but when your frontline heroes are even asking for information to be released, it’s clearly a call for help.
Osler has been criticized in the past for its lack of transparency, throughout Civic’s tumultuous 13-year history, but that doesn’t have to be detailed here.
All stories can be re-written and, as Ford said, it’s time to ensure the final chapters of this book are ones we want to read in the future.
The media often doesn’t help during delicate times like this pandemic. In trying to provide some much-needed coverage of the afflicted, while also painting a picture of the reality we’re all facing, some lose focus. Others are simply irresponsible.
Overzealous or misplaced criticism isn’t what anybody needs right now. We need the truth. The public needs the information promised by the premier. We also have to scrutinize our hospital administrators when they put their own priorities ahead of transparency, or when they fail to meet a standard of care.
They are public servants and it’s time to serve the public.
Mississauga and Brampton have just entered a critical period in the healthcare effort to push back COVID-19, as overall case numbers continue to climb and the first wave of seriously ill patients is being treated inside the three full-service hospitals that have been bracing for this.
With more than a thousand confirmed cases in Peel, it’s crucial that administrators understand how vital an informed public is in the fight to beat back this killer virus.
Doug Ford was a father before becoming head of the province. The anxiety on his face that recent Friday afternoon was real. To protect all of us, he wants the data to tell the truth and ensure our buy-in throughout this challenge.
The premier is showing how to lead during a crisis.
Our local healthcare officials should follow his example.
COVID-19 is impacting all Canadians. At a time when vital public information is needed by everyone, The Pointer has taken down our paywall on all stories relating to the pandemic to ensure every resident of Brampton and Mississauga has access to the facts. For those who are able, we encourage you to consider a subscription. This will help us report on important public interest issues the community needs to know about now more than ever. You can register for a 30-day free trial HERE. Thereafter, The Pointer will charge $10 a month and you can cancel any time right on the website. Thank you.
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