TORONTO — Alan Konyer was about two months into retirement when he called it off.
Last month, the family doctor decided that if the novel coronavirus was going to spread to Canada, he would be of more use as a physician.
“I’ve never seen anything like the pandemic or the effects it’s having on society,” he told CTV News Channel on Saturday from his home in Lindsay, Ont.
“Seeing what was happening to hospitals in Europe being overwhelmed… I thought if I could help out in any way and relieve some of the pressure on patients and our frontline medical staff, I would offer to do so.”
Konyer is among a growing force of thousands of retired health-care workers answering the call for help amid the pandemic, which has killed more than 108,000 people around the world. As of Saturday evening, 23,318 people in Canada have been infected with COVID-19 and 653 have died.
In March, Montreal nurse Della O’Neill rejoined the front lines to help out, telling CTV News Montreal that a nurse will never truly “lose that calling, even if you retire or change professions.”
“It’s a sign of the times,” she said. “I just think it is all hands on deck.”
Since stepping out of retirement, Konyer hasn’t been in hospitals treating with COVID-19 patients. He’s been doing telephone consultation, work that is important as a means of prevention so that hospitals don’t become overwhelmed by unnecessary visitors, he said.
“If I can save them a trip to a walk-in clinic or the emergency department, then it’s maybe helped a little bit for the whole system,” he said.
Over the phone he can tell that Canadians are anxious, but he believes the physical distancing directives are working.
“I think people are getting the message from government that they need to stay at home, they need to minimize unnecessary trips outside the home,” he said.