REGINA -- Speaking not as the Saskatchewan Health Authority’s Chief Medical Officer, but as a critical care physician, Dr. Susan Shaw gave a plea to the public Friday to follow basic pandemic guidelines.

“I can see what this virus is doing on our frontlines. I see how tired staff are with having to manage the pressures that come with this virus, but they still come to work,” Shaw said at Friday’s provincial update.

Shaw has continued to take shifts in Saskatoon’s intensive care units and emergency rooms throughout the pandemic.

“I sit with the families of those who have been admitted to our intensive care units with COVID. I sit beside their loved ones, all of them suffering, some of them dying. And they may never be truly face to face with each other ever again because of the need to wear masks,” Shaw said. “They do so because it’s the right thing to do. That, to me makes putting on a mask when you go to the grocery store seem not so hard.”

As of Friday, 53 people provincially were in hospital due to COVID-19, Saskatchewan’s highest number of hospitalizations to date.

Saskatchewan Union of Nurses President Tracy Zambory echoed calls for a public effort to help slow spread, noting it will take everyone to re-flatten the curve.

“If we were following the rules, wearing the masks, the social distancing, the washing the hands, keeping your bubble small we would not have this pressure on the system,” Zambory said. “Now the curve is so curved that it’s going to take all of us as a community together following the rules to push that curve back down flat.”


Shaw also said SHA contact tracers trying to do their jobs have faced some vitriol from members of the public they’re working to alert of potential contact with a case of the virus.

“I worry now, more than ever, about our collective commitment to keeping our health system from being overwhelmed. I worry when I hear every week that our contact tracers are facing verbal abuse from the members of the public they deal with. That to me is unacceptable,” Shaw stated.

“There has been verbal abuse, people hanging up, our members being sworn at,” Zambory said of SUN members in testing and contact tracing. “It’s an interesting dichotomy. The public doesn’t want to follow the rules, doesn’t want to mask, doesn’t want to social distance, doesn’t want to stay home and yet they don’t want to be the one who is diagnosed with COVID, so is abusive to the contact tracing conversation and won’t help us try to find our way through this.”

Gordon Asmundson, a professor of psychology at the University of Regina, says some of the behaviour directed towards contact tracer could be the result of what’s known as crisis fatigue, or in this case COVID fatigue.

“It’s been on and unremitting for such a period of time that they’ve just reached that state of exhaustion and anything more is the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Asmundson said. “People are just emotionally and physically exhausted, they’re hyper-vigilant to the threat that’s out there, it turns to irritation, anger, rage, despair.”

The potential fatigue factor mixed with the possible effects people think of from potentially having COVID-19, medical or otherwise like potentially not being able to work could also contribute.

“Unfortunately, that person doing their job calls somebody who’s in that state and that person becomes an outlet for that person’s irritation and anger. That’s a possible explanation.”

It’s not only the public who has grown tired of COVID-19 as the pandemic continues on.

“I’m tired too. Our physicians and staff are also tired and yet we come to work to make sure the system is there for you when you need it,” Shaw said.

All healthcare workers ask for in return is an increased public effort to reduce the spread of the virus.