Reiann Oak (Second to the right) and coworkers at the Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster

As of Tuesday, Saskatchewan was sitting at 184 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the province, and announced the first 2 deaths in relation to the virus.

One former Moose Jaw resident however, Reiann Oak, is working as an ICU nurse in New Westminster, BC, where they are dealing with 970 total cases, and have experienced 19 deaths.

Oak moved to British Columbia in 2012, and we asked her what things are like in one of the provinces most affected by this pandemic.

 "Everyone is worried that most of our staff will get sick - making us short staffed. That there are not enough resources to care for these patients safely, and mostly that we are putting our families at risk every time we come home from work. They're very concerned, stressed and worried. Still I feel like people are not taking it as seriously as they should, and its frustrating for us because we are there all day dealing with it."

She goes on to say that things are not getting better, and that there are more patients being admitted every shift. All staff working at the hospital have to wear specific equipment, and all have certain ways to remove the equipment when they are done in order to not contaminate themselves.

"Patients are all in individual rooms, ideally negative pressure rooms but we only have 2 of those, so the doors must stay closed at all times and the bed is placed a specific distance from the door. There is then tape on the floor that marks where staff can stand to take off their protective equipment safely and limit their exposure to the virus."

She said its heartbreaking to see patients stuck in their rooms on a ventilator, unable to be visited by friends, family, or loved ones. 

Oak went on to say however, that the mass amount of public support being shown for healthcare workers across Vancouver, and the rest of the country, is a great boost to moral, and that all nurses and care providers really do appreciate the gesture.

"Every night at 7 in all of the suburbs [of Vancouver], everyone gets on their balconies and clap, bang pots, and all of the cops, paramedics and fire department drive by the hospital and blast their sirens and honk. It really cheers everyone up at that time. It really means a lot and I think people don't realize how much it means to us, but everyone in the hospital can hear the support and its great to see the appreciation for the stress and hard work we are going through."

Oak says one of her patients in the ICU is a 26 year old with no prior health issues, but that most cases are individuals who are in their 70s or older.

She says the seriousness of the virus cannot be understated, and that people need to continue to practice social distancing and isolation. Not just for themselves, but for those who are caring for everyone who ends up needing to be admitted to the hospital. 


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