Canadian nurse working at U.S. hospital describes ‘astonishing’ extent of COVID-19

TORONTO — A nurse in Windsor, Ont. who works in Detroit says U.S. hospitals depend on Canadian staff amid the COVID-19 pandemic, despite attempts to keep some medical professionals on one side of the border.

Steve Homick told CTV News Channel that 80 to 90 per cent of the cases in the Detroit hospital he works at are related to COVID-19.

“I don’t want to use the word chaotic because that would make it seem like it is completely out of control, but the amount of cases that we are seeing — people coming in with COVID concerns versus regular medical concerns — it’s astonishing,” he said Tuesday.

When comparing hospitals in Windsor to those in Detroit, Homick says he does not think that those in each cities are experiencing much different scenarios.

“As far as Michigan goes, just driving to work I notice that there’s less people out and about as opposed to my drive through Windsor,” he said. “I can’t really speak to how Windsor hospitals are managing [cases] but from what I’ve heard from friends, they’re starting to fill up — as is our ICU and the additional hospital beds that we’ve created in our hospital.”

Homick says he hasn’t had a hard time crossing the Canada-U.S. border and border officials have not questioned him about going back and forth, despite some of Ontario’s border city hospitals banning their medical professionals from working in both countries.

“They’re actually really understanding. They have a program set up now where you have a sign in your car that you’re a health-care worker,” Homick said. “They ask you if you have anything to declare, and that’s it and you’re on your way.”

Dozens of employees at Windsor Regional Hospital also work across the border in Detroit and have been told they need to pick one place to work going forward.

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens is warning against the idea of completely closing off the Canada-U.S. border to health-care workers for fears Americans will die without the help of Canadian staff.

“At the end of the day, if you close the border or if there was a hard stop, you would have entire hospitals closed in the city of Detroit,” Dilkens said in an interview with CTV’s Power Play on Monday. “People would die in Detroit if health care from Canada wasn’t made available to them and workers had to stop at the border.”

According to Michigan health officials, there are more than 17,000 coronavirus cases in the state. As of Tuesday afternoon, Canada has that many cases across the country.

Homick says concerns over protective equipment for front-line workers is also an issue on both sides of the border. However, he says, people in Detroit have stepped up to help hospital employees.

“Where I work we haven’t really had an issue with getting PPE or gowns,” says Homick. “Detroit has a lot of industrial places that have been creating face shields for us… The community has really rallied around us there and stepped up to donate masks.”

“But it is in the back of my mind that it may eventually run out,” he added.

Despite concerns over supplies, Homick says the hospital where he works is grateful for the extra help from Canadian nurses and doctors.

“Not just in my unit, but throughout the whole hospital, everyone has really come together,” he said. “It’s nice to have helpful coworkers you can lean on especially at a time when you can really see anyone else except your coworkers.”

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