Your friendly neighborhood Emergency doctor here with a message for Canadians.


Hey Canada, sitting here on the frontlines – we see you.

Staying home, helping to gather PPE, supporting us, and feeding us, you’re helping us to do our jobs. When we see you helping to support frontline workers, it really helps morale.

Although, I can’t say I’m surprised, it is the kind of thing Canadians are good at. Canadians have always been resilient and positively recognized on a World stage – from our victory on Vimy Ridge in World War I, aiding stranded passengers in Gander, Newfoundland on 9/11, to our humanitarian efforts on a global scale, Canadians are used to uniting together. Right now, there is nothing more nationalistic than helping out your vulnerable neighbor with a grocery delivery, checking in on our older loved ones, and most importantly, the sacrifice you are making by practicing social distancing. This, is the Canadian spirit that Justin Trudeau keeps mentioning.

It seems most people are listening to the advice of public health officials, and we really appreciate it. You’re helping us to buy more time to better deal with what we know is coming. Having seen what has happened in other parts of the world, we’re getting an opportunity to try and get a head start, and we’re taking advantage of every second. You’ve bought us time to practice simulations, build redundancies into staff scheduling, prepare and empty hospitals, cancel elective cases, and more. This preparation time has been invaluable and we’re not wasting it.

It is easy to criticize governmental and administrative responses at the best of times, but we are experiencing our generation’s ‘historical moment’, this is unlike anything we’ve ever seen. I will commend the government for their response thus far (you can argue too little or too slow, but in comparison to the rest of the world I think Canada is doing a pretty good job). Just a glimpse of what is happening down south is enough to make you realize what poor leadership will get you. I will caution that despite what we’ve done so far, we need to do more and we need to dig deeper.

We’re living in unprecedented times, and we need to fight this together, with your help. Remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint. We need you to maintain social distancing so that we can care for your grandparents, parents, partners, siblings, and friends. Stay home if you’re sick. Avoid leaving the house unnecessarily. Only access the Emergency Department if you’re unwell. It is going to take a monumental effort by Canadians, but if we do it together, we will save lives.

In the coming weeks you will see different numbers and forecasts of the COVID-19 spread, and this may fill you with a false sense of security. It is important to know that we are not testing everyone, and assuming many patients have the disease without testing (due to a global shortage of swabs), so reassuring numbers do not mean it is acceptable to go outside and start socializing. Continue listening to public health and we can all stay safe together.

Healthcare staff – we see you supporting each other across the country, on social media, in person, with food deliveries for each other – this kindness and support for one another is incredible, and will help us going in the long days ahead.

I’m proud to be on the frontlines helping Canadians during this crisis because I see the country uniting, looking out for one another. We’re not heroes, we’re members of your communities, neighborhoods and country – just trying to do our best. As the number of COVID-19 cases begin to rise and hospitals get busier, the frontline healthcare workers in this country need you to help boost morale and provide us hope and encouragement – the best way you can do this is to #Stayhome and #Staysafe.

Shahbaz Syed
Dr. Syed is an staff Emergency physician at the Ottawa Hospital, with an fellowship in Digital Scholarship and special interests in rational resource utilization.