COVID-19 patient isolation could lead to mental health struggles: Alberta ICU doctor

Dr. Peter Brindley is on the frontlines of the war against COVID-19. He is a critical care physician at the University of Alberta Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit and admits battling the virus has meant spending less time with his patients. 

‘We can’t go in the room every two minutes but at the same time, you don’t want to only go into the room every five to six hours because that poor person needs to be engaged with and feel taken care of,” said Brindley.

Brindley says his patients in ICU want to know everything is under control and to feel connected.

“What they are looking at instead, is someone wearing a visor and a mask. And that must feel surreal, unreal and at times terrifying.” 

He points to a 2016 University of Alberta study that found compared to non-isolated patients, isolated patients receive less attention from health care workers. The study saw isolated patients receive 50 per cent less physical contact and health professionals spend 50 per cent less time in their rooms. 

Hospitals across Canada, including at the University of Alberta, have turned to technology to help patients feel connected.

“We’ve used iPads to communicate, FaceTime. We are now loosening up visitation, it’s easier to come visit. We’ve been trying our darnedest to make daily phone calls to family, to give them an update.”

To read more about Brindley’s thoughts on solitude and loneliness, click here.

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