Dr. Jasper Ghuman, an emergency room physician at Surrey Memorial Hospital, hopes the past year has helped to prepare people for a future pandemic. 
(Photo: Lauren Collins)

Dr. Jasper Ghuman, an emergency room physician at Surrey Memorial Hospital, hopes the past year has helped to prepare people for a future pandemic. (Photo: Lauren Collins)

Last year filled with ‘ups and downs’ for healthcare system, Surrey ER doctor says

Dr. Jasper Ghuman says initial fear of going into work has subsided

This is the final piece in a four-part series looking at how people in the community are rebuilding a year after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic on March 11, 2020.

Part one: ‘Long COVID’: How a Surrey man is dealing with the effects of the virus one year later, March 11, 2021

Part two: ‘We really had to change everything’: Surrey schools continue to adapt to COVID-19 changes, March 18, 2021

Part three: ‘Always ready to adapt’: Surrey small businesses stay resilient in a year of COVID-19, March 25, 2021

Dr. Jasper Ghuman says there was a “lot of fear” when going into work during the first wave of the pandemic last spring.

Ghuman, an emergency room physician at Surrey Memorial Hospital, said there was initially a “relaxed attitude because it was so far away.”

But he said then B.C. started recording cases, and seeing what was “happening in Italy and the other side of the world, it was scary.”

RELATED: From lockdown in Italy to self-isolation in South Surrey, March 27, 2020

“It felt like so long ago, but initially when we first started, you thought, “OK, yeah, this will be over in a few months and we’ll be back to normal,’” he noted.

“You can see the slow progression of the changes that were happening in the (emergency room). We went from wearing no masks to then wearing masks when we saw patients to wearing masks all the time to wearing goggles all the time.

“I haven’t seen my colleagues’ faces for almost a year, and we have so many new staff members in the hospital now. I actually have not seen their full face yet.”

The last year, since the pandemic was declared in B.C., has been a “difficult year,” Ghuman said.

“There’s been a lot of ups and downs. We’ve learned a lot in the past year. It is difficult to go back into where we started from, but I think we’ve come a long way, even regardless of where we are now.”

homelessphoto

Dr. Jasper Ghuman is an ER physician at Surrey Memorial Hospital. (Photo: Lauren Collins)

But now, Ghuman said he feels safe coming into the hospital.

“It’s amazing how much we’ve learned about the virus over the past year that I feel safe. I actually feel really safe coming into the hospital. Everybody has a mask on, the risk of transmission is so low if both people have a mask on. I feel comfortable.”

“We’ve made so many strides to make the ER safe … It’s a completely safe environment to come into, regardless if you have COVID or not.”

Dr. Victoria Lee, president and CEO of Fraser Health, said a year ago, “we were just learning a lot about the virus” and its impacts, while also comparing it to previous pandemics and SARS.

While some were “more optimistic” in their outlook for how long this pandemic could last, Lee said, “I think it was not unexpected that we would see multiple waves.”

READ ALSO: COVID-19 ‘disproportionately’ affecting Fraser Health: Henry, Oct. 29, 2020

Surrey COVID cases – by month, week
Infogram

Ghuman spoke to the Now-Leader the same day provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry called for a three-week “circuit breaker” to slow the spread of COVID-19 as B.C. heads into its third wave.

RELATED: B.C. stops indoor dining, fitness, religious service due to COVID-19 spike, March 29, 2021

The latest regulations are very similar to some of those implemented last spring: the suspension of indoor dining and liquor sales, indoor adult group fitness and indoor religious services.

Ghuman said it was “difficult to see” and a “little bit unfortunate.”

“I think the public was getting excited with vaccines down the road,” he said. “People are seeing a sort of light at the end of the tunnel, but I think there was some complacency and I think some gatherings and people getting together.

“It’s a difficult decision to make, I mean, to balance the health of the community with the health of the economy, but at this point, what needs to be done needs to be done, just to bring the cases down.”

Ghuman said he hopes it will “at least allow us to catch up” in vaccinating the population, “and hopefully it will be a different situation a month from now.”

But he said he’s not completely surprised to see the rise in cases.

“I was slowly, slowly starting to see what was happening in other jurisdictions,” Ghuman said. “You could see the cases slowly starting to creep up. You were hoping to be pretty ahead in the vaccinations that it wouldn’t come to this, but I guess that’s the way it is.”

Asked if he thinks some of the changes implemented in the last year could stay, Ghuman said he doesn’t see the mask mandates being eased “for quite a while.”

“Hopefully, we’ll be much more prepared — hopefully, there’s not — but if there is ever another virus we have to worry about. I think a lot of these PPE protocols are probably going to stay in place for quite a while.”

Ghuman, who has been working in emergency rooms since 2004, said he started his medical training at an ER in Ontario.

“I was just seeing the tail end of SARS, and I never really got to experience much of it, but there was a lot of planning,” he noted.

“Then over the years, it’s just kind of withered away and (was) forgotten. I think if we had some of those contingency measures in place, we might’ve been more prepared. I think, hopefully, we’ll remember this and public health funding will continue so there’s better surveillance and we can move quickly.”

Throughout the pandemic, Lee said Fraser Health created a comprehensive preparedness plan and “very stringent” infection prevention plans.

READ ALSO: Surrey Memorial’s biocontainment facility playing big role in B.C.’s COVID-19 response, March 6, 2020

Asked if she sees any of these plans continuing for the forseeable future, she said in some changes “we believe will be for ongoing or seasonal influenza.”

Lee added there could also be a component for getting prepared for an “extreme type of event,” ensuring health officials are able to utilize the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic.

She said that while it takes time to heal, this year has also been a time to “stretch and grow.”

“So much has been accomplished in the past year that would’ve taken 10 years to achieve,” she noted. “We almost have a different expectation or hope … of what we can achieve together.”

Lee said when it comes to what the world has accomplished in the past year, she said it was “not even imagined prior to the pandemic.”

“We’ve accomplished so much in the past year that would’ve taken 10 years to achieve.”

Ghuman agreed, pointing to the speed in developing multiple vaccines.

“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” said Ghuman, who received his first dose in January and second in February. “Going through medical school, you’re worried about how long it takes to produce vaccines, but with the technology these days, and all the data sharing … the whole world and community coming together for just one purpose, I can see why it happened.”



lauren.collins@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram and follow Lauren on Twitter

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Delta Police Department’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Unit: (from left) Const. Joel Thirsk, analyst Jody Johnson and Staff Sgt. Sukh Sidhu. (Delta Police Department photo)
Delta police respond to rising number of hate crimes

Police have received 15 reports so far in 2021, compared to 12 in all of 2020

Marchers supporting Indian farmers rallied in Surrey last month, from Bear Creek Park to Holland Park along King George Boulevard. (File photo: Tom Zillich)
Surrey MP says mayor’s motion to support Indian farmers is his to make

“He has his own sovereignty, right,” Sukh Dhaliwal says

Researchers say residents should leave sleeping bats alone while they exit hibernation. (Cathy Koot photo)
Spring ‘signal’ brings White Rock, Surrey bats out of hibernation

Community Bat Programs of BC says it’s best to leave sleeping bats alone

(Photo: Creative Outlet)
YOUR MONEY: Tax tips for a complicated tax season involving CERB and more

With April 30 tax deadline, ‘it is important to understand the tax implications (benefits) will have’

This map illustrates the number of active COVID-19 cases in Greater Vancouver from April 4 to 10, 2021. (BC Centre for Disease Control image)
Active COVID-19 case in Delta hit new high

262 cases for the week of April 4 to 10, most since BC CDC began releasing weekly city-level data

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Top doctor warns B.C.’s daily cases could reach 3,000 as COVID hospitalizations surge

There are more than 400 people in hospital, with 125 of them in ICU

The father of Aaliyah Rosa planted a tree and laid a plaque in her memory in 2018. (Langley Advance Times files)
Final witness will extend Langley child murder trial into May or June

Lengthy trial began last autumn with COVID and other factors forcing it to take longer than expected

The corner of 96th Avenue and Glover Road in Fort Langley now has traffic signals, and new “touchless” signal activation buttons. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)
Busy Fort Langley intersection gets ‘touchless’ crosswalk signals

The new traffic light started operation in April

A crossing guard stops traffic as students wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 arrive at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. A number of schools in the Fraser Health region, including Woodward Hill, have reported cases of the B.1.7.7 COVID-19 variant first detected in the U.K. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID-infected students in Lower Mainland schools transmitting to 1 to 2 others: data

Eight to 13 per cent of COVID cases among students in the Lower Mainland were acquired in schools, B.C. says

Dr. Bonnie Henry – in a B.C. health order that went into effect April 12 – granted WorkSafe inspectors the power to enforce workplace closures with COVID-19 spread. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
24 workplace closures being enforced in Fraser Health under new COVID-19 order

WorkSafe inspectors the power to enforce closures if COVID-19 has spread to 3 or more employees

Maple Ridge Fire and Rescue were conducting training operations at Gold Creek Falls when a firefighter broke their leg. (Eileen Robinson photo - Special to The News)
Firefighter suffers broken leg during swift water rescue practice in Golden Ears park

A training exercise at Maple Ridge waterfall on Wedesday results in mishap

Norm Scott, president of Royal Canadian Legion Branch # 91, is disappointed the Legion does not qualify for COVID financial assistance from the provincial government. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C.’s pandemic aid package passing Legion branches by

Federal non-profit status stymies provincial assistance eligibility

Latest modelling by public health shows cases generated by COVID-19 infections into places where it can spread quickly. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
Industrial sites, pubs, restaurants driving COVID-19 spread in B.C.

Infection risk higher in offices, retail, warehouses, farms

Most Read