A Yukon senior who visited Whitehorse General Hospital for blood tests last Friday said he was startled to see staff weren’t wearing masks.
Nor did they keep a two-metre distance from others.
“I was very surprised at this,” Murray Martin told the Star Wednesday afternoon.
“This is a hospital and they’re right within a foot or two of people who are sick and coming in for blood tests and dealing with patients.”
Martin said he wore a mask while visiting the hospital. He was stopped by an employee at the door who asked him screening questions and requested he wash his hands before entering.
While waiting to receive a blood test, Martin said, he counted 39 hospital employees without masks.
“Out of 39, there were only two who avoided coming within a few feet of patients,” Martin said.
“It just rather surprised me that our hospital wasn’t paying more attention to this virus that is spreading around, especially when they’re figuring we may have another big burst of this coming this fall.”
Martin said he felt wary of having to visit the hospital during a pandemic, so took extra precautions to arrive with his own personal protective equipment.
“Although I had a mask on, it did definitely make me feel unsafe … at one point, I felt like getting up and just walking out of there,” Martin said.
“I don’t look forward to going into the hospital with that amount of people, and people really not paying attention to this virus.”
The chairs in the waiting room are spaced six feet apart, but people were standing between the chairs. Martin felt that neither patients nor staff appeared to take the safety measures seriously.
Martin said he is conscious of taking extra precautions because he has endured previous virus epidemics.
“I’ve lived through it before; I’m 87 and was born in 1933; there were a lot of diseases we had to deal with,” Martin said.
“I wear the mask because I came up through the measles, the mumps, the scarlet fever.
“I saw a lot of young people –because I was young then – I saw a lot of people die from the diseases that we had.
“The diseases now seem to be much stronger; when we say this is worldwide, this is not something to take lightly.”
Matt Davidson, of Yukon Hospital Corp. communications, told the Star in an email on Tuesday that Yukoners should feel confident their hospitals are following every necessary safety procedure.
“The hospitals are safe environments,” Davidson said.
“At this time, not everyone needs to wear a mask when in hospital.”
The hospital corporation has screening criteria and personal protective equipment policies in place, Davidson said. These policies were developed with Dr. Brendan Hanley, the chief medical officer.
The Yukon’s hospitals are also strictly limiting the number of people in hospitals to limit foot traffic and enable physical distancing, with no walk-in outpatient services, floor markings and seating restrictions, Davidson said.
“Every effort is made within available resources to monitor and enforce these measures,” Davidson said.
The hospitals have the ability to bend these measures accordingly if there is a surge of the virus in the territory, he noted.
Martin, meanwhile, said he’s noticed many Yukoners ignoring physical distancing recommendations outside the hospital. If more people had lived through other virus outbreaks, he suggested, they might be more likely to follow the rules.
“I find that a lot of people under the age of 40 that haven’t had this experience, they’re ignoring all those safety points that scientists are pushing for people to follow.”
Noticing the number of people who congregate at local grocery stores, for example, has prompted Martin to do his shopping early in the mornings during the opening hours for seniors.
He has noticed that about 60 per cent of seniors shop with masks on during those early hours.
Martin said he hopes Yukoners will start to take the virus precautions more seriously, with the expectation that the virus may return to the territory.
“I think a lot of people are ignoring it, they’re getting bored and they’re, shall we say, letting their pants down,” Martin said.
“I honestly believe that we’re only seeing the beginning of what’s coming, because these diseases nowadays seem to last longer.
“I think people ought to get serious and realize this pandemic is not over.”
Last Friday afternoon, Martin said he also had an optometrist appointment – and the staff there were wearing masks.
“I was pleased to see that,” Martin said.