The president of the Saskatchewan Medical Association (SMA) was one of eight presumptive COVID-19 cases announced on Wednesday.
Dr. Allan Woo is at home monitoring his condition after attending a curling bonspiel in Edmonton from March 11-14. The annual event attracts between 50 and 60 physicians from across Western Canada. Woo believes he contracted Coronavirus at that event.
“As I write this, I am reminded that physicians are not invincible,” Woo wrote in an SMA media release. “The risks of this pandemic are far too real. I hope my personal situation serves as a signal for all healthcare workers, and others, to be vigilant about their health. Everyone needs to take precautions and self-monitor for any symptoms.”
Woo said he has been self-isolating since Tuesday morning when he first noticed symptoms. He has rescheduled appointments and surgeries, and is communicating with patients he was in contact with.
“My sincere apologies for any distress this may cause,” he wrote.
Woo is an orthopedic surgeon in Saskatoon.
The news generated a flurry of questions about the health of Saskatchewan’s healthcare providers when the province’s Chief Medical Health Officer spoke with the media on Thursday.
Dr. Saqib Shahab said physicians and nurses who wear appropriate personal protection while treating patients are not in danger of contracting or spreading the virus. However, he said they still need to be careful after work when mingling with the general public.
“Like everyone else, they are also part of the community, (and) exposure can happen as part of work or as part of the community,” Shahab explained. “As soon as you become symptomatic, you isolate. It’s really important. That’s the most important thing physicians can do, healthcare providers can do, all of us can do. Self-monitor in an ongoing way, not just if you have travelled.”
Shahab said he’s aware of two facilities where healthcare providers are self-isolating. In both cases it’s due to patients showing up without warning staff they may have COVID-19.
Shahab said the provincial government is collecting more information about the curling bonspiel in Edmonton.
He said there’s no guarantee that everyone who attended the event came in close contact with a COVID-19 patient, although they wouldn’t be able to determine that “for another day or two.”