Questions on COVID-19 with Dr. Robert Sargeant

Dr. Robert Sargeant is a Greenwood parent and a frontline worker at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. Dr. Rob Sargeant is leading the COVID-19 response team at the hospital, and is also the Head of Internal Medicine there. He shared what it is like to work at the hospital during the pandemic and answered many important questions that are commonly asked about COVID-19.

What is Covid-19 and how have things changed in the hospital since the start of the pandemic?

COVID-19 is a virus. Viruses are organisms that can make us sick and travel between people. They are clever and can enter the cells of our body and make copies of themselves which can then be distributed to other people through contact. Because of this, we have to take precautions to prevent the transfer of the virus, which is why you are being asked to stay home and ‘social distance’.

In St. Michael’s Hospital, there are entirely new pathways and wards to keep patients separate from each other and also to protect staff members. When staff care for patients they ensure they are wearing PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) which includes gowns, masks, face shields and gloves. 

Dr. Sargeant has been at St. Michael’s since he was a medical student back in the 90s and he says the changes that have been made in the last two months have been greater in magnitude and scope than anything he’s ever seen in twenty years.

What is a typical day like in the hospital and how do you meet with patients?

Every morning, Dr. Sargeant meets with his team and they talk about any new patients. They then divide up their tasks for the day and go see the patients. They use a buddy system because it’s important they have backup at all times and they can ensure they are each wearing their PPE properly. This is usually a nurse practitioner partnered with a doctor.

How is the hospital using technology?

The hospital has improved technology by using iPads, iPhones, walkie talkies and so on. Like Greenwood staff and students transitioning to online learning, staff at the hospital had to adapt to new forms of technology. They have transferred to a paperless system and all of their notes can be dictated to small, transportable computers that can travel through the hospital wherever they go.

Have we flattened the curve?

We have flattened the curve. This means our hospitals are not overwhelmed with cases; there are empty hospital beds, space in intensive care units and a lot of ventilators ready to use if people need them.

This is all because of the efforts everyone has made to stay home and social distance. Washing our hands, avoiding non-essential travel, staying away from crowds and self-isolating is working and has helped flatten the curve.

Who is most susceptible to COVID-19?

Many people ask if young people get very sick from this virus and the answer is no. In Canada there have been no reported cases of children under the age of 19 who have gotten critically ill or passed away from this virus. Unfortunately, the opposite is true: people who are older, who live in nursing homes and/or have existing medical conditions are very susceptible to this virus. Many have fallen ill and/or have passed away. 

What does asymptomatic mean?

Not everybody will become sick from this virus even if they are exposed to it. Sometimes we become infected with the virus and it starts making copies of itself in our system but it’s a mild infection and it doesn’t make us sick. However, if you are in that phase of the illness, you can still transmit it to others who may become very ill.

What makes this virus tricky is the asymptomatic period. During this period, we can spread it to other people and it can last up to eight or ten days after somebody’s been exposed. 

How dangerous is this virus and can we pick it up in day-to-day activities?

There is always a small risk of having this spread through the air or through touch. If everyone washes their hands and keeps their distance from others, the chances of transmission from this virus are very low. We must all do our part in following the rules in order to keep everyone safe and healthy.

Thank you Dr. Sargeant for taking time out of your busy schedule to share your knowledge with the Greenwood community. We appreciate everything you are doing to keep people safe and healthy!
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