2020-04-22

Mental health impacts a concern post-pandemic, says ex-South Shore Health top doc

by Keith Corcoran

  • <p>FILE PHOTO</p><p>Dr. Peter Vaughan on COVID-19: &#8220;This is not a small, short kind of a phenomena, it is a serous global problem.&#8221;</p>

A former top doc of the health authority that covered Lunenburg and Queens counties praises the provincial and federal efforts toward combating the COVID-19 pandemic but raises concern about the mental health fall-out on frontline workers, and others, after the dust settles.

"This is real; it's not a hoax, and they are doing the best they can, and they're going to be the ones who struggle with the aftermath of this," said Dr. Peter Vaughan.

"This is not a small, short kind of a phenomena, it is a serious global problem. I think Nova Scotia is doing very well, as best it can, given what we're dealing with."

Vaughan, an epidemiologist by training, served as South Shore Health's chief executive for several years before becoming Nova Scotia's deputy minister of health, a position he held up to 2014 before retiring.

Vaughan, who recently spoke to LighthouseNOW during the early stages of the global response to the novel coronavirus, said he's impressed with government's "forceful" messaging and lack of over-reaction. Closing liquor stores, for example, was done by other jurisdictions, which Vaughan said is "a bad idea" as that alone could yield serious health problems. He said people, for example, could resort to making their own alcoholic drinks and consume something hazardous.

Meanwhile, the Halifax County resident's background in public health and disease education and study tells him "it's just been a matter of time" before a new kind of virus would pop up. There are peaks and troughs, he noted, pointing to outbreaks of H1N1 and SARS in years gone by.

Can our system of care handle the pressure of COVID-19? Vaughan said current public health advice is designed to alleviate further stress on hospitals.

"The reason were are all socially isolating is to try and reduce the crush on the health system," Vaughan told LighthouseNOW, noting the organization as a whole is ordinarily working above capacity on a good day.

"I think Nova Scotia struggles, like the rest of the country struggles, with resources to meet the needs of the population at the present time," he added. "Having said that, I think we are well positioned, at least structurally, in Nova Scotia with a single unified health authority to rapidly spread the care across the province without unnecessary administrative barriers."

Vaughan's not about to second-guess anything he's observed thus far in terms of official coronavirus response or communications.

"I think there's going to be plenty of time for the Monday morning quarterbacking" when it comes to discussions surrounding supplies and equipment, he indicated. "I think, for now, people have done well on all sides."

His go-forward advice and message for those working on health care's frontlines: "Keep doing what you're doing. This is going to be a long run ... know that we're behind you and support you. Thank you for what you're doing, and we look forward to being on the other side of this together."

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