Commentary – Don’t drink the sanitizer

Jeff Burgar

We don’t usually say “oldtimers,” “geezers” or “geezettes” or other titles that indicate, in a sort of condescending tone, their advanced years. These days, it’s something like “seniors” or “elders.”

But a polite name doesn’t mean they automatically get better treatment. Notably New York City, Quebec and New Jersey, are evidence and shown by the terrible death rates in long term care facilities and nursing homes there.

The thinking a few months ago was, if the Wuhan COVID-19 virus was going to rip through the population as it seemed poised to do, all hospital beds possible would be needed. So the big medical ships Mercy and Comfort were parked in New York and Los Angeles. The Javits emergency hospital was built in New York. Quebec, and to a lesser extent Ontario, emptied their hospitals. Patients were packed into nursing homes and seniors lodges.

In hindsight, and comparing to Florida which did not, this action was a mistake. Hospitals did not overflow. One ship, barely used, was sent back to its home port. The emergency hospital was also barely used.

Meanwhile, death rates soared in nursing homes.

Well, it’s perfect hindsight, of course. Pack vulnerable people in close quarters and they were ravaged by a hungry virus. What seemed like a good idea at the time, and was echoed everywhere, turned out to be – well – not such a good idea.

What could have happened, that of hospitals, nursing homes, every nook and cranny where sick people could be stashed, all overflowing with dead and dying, did not happen. Thankfully.

Today, people everywhere are afraid to see a doctor, if he will even see them. Emergency rooms are empty.

Recently, one of our local lodges had a sick senior. The ambulance whisked him away to the hospital. Immediately checking him out and finding nothing wrong, next of kin were told, “Your dad is well. Come and get him.”

“The ambulance took him in the first place. Why can’t they take him back?” next of kind said.

“He wasn’t really admitted. So we don’t do that. Come get him.”

So, off to the hospital goes the relative. The hospital lobby is deserted. Nobody home.

“Helllooooo. Anybody home? Hellooooooo.”

The relative, now both irritated and agitated, fails to see a button that is supposed to be pushed. Finally somebody appears.

“Where’s your hand sanitizer?” the relative asks. “I had to open the door.”

“Oh, we keep it hidden. We don’t want people stealing it to drink.”

After discussion, it’s, “Take him.”

Load elder in car. Drive to lodge. Help elder to door. Lodge is two months into lockdown. No entry for civilians. Elder is welcomed. No temperature taken. No screening of any kind. No questions about tests. Unknown! The elder is now inside, as they say in prisons, apparently back in general population.

And possibly infectious as all hell. In fact, a whole chain of contamination possibilities here.

But, Northern Alberta infections are extremely low. So, not to worry.

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