FSWC Hosts Panel of Frontline Doctors to Discuss Coronavirus Pandemic

May 1, 2020

Media Statement

Toronto (May 1, 2020)  - Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC) brought together a panel last night of Toronto doctors on the frontlines of the battle against coronavirus.

FSWC President and CEO Avi Benlolo sat down with five of the city’s leading physicians to discuss their experiences as they struggle to contain and treat coronavirus and to share their insights about the long-term impact of the pandemic on ourhealth care system and society.

The panelists included:

  • Dr. Deron Brown, Chief of Otolaryngology at the Scarborough Health Network and Adjunct Lecturer at the University of Toronto;
  • Dr. Lisa Salamon, Emergency Physician and ED Pandemic Planning Lead at the Scarborough Health Network and a District Chair of the Ontario Medical Association;
  • Dr. Gerald Rosenstein, Chief of Nephrology and Director of Dialysis at Grand River Hospital and Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine at McMaster University;
  • Dr. Gordon Arbess, Staff Physician in the Department of Family & Community Medicine at St. Michael’s Hospital, Clinical Director of the HIV/AIDS program at the St. Michael’s Family Health Team, and Professor and Director of the HIV Fellowship program at University of Toronto; and
  • Dr. Paul Perlon, Emergency Physician at Mackenzie Health and Medical Director for the Oak Ridges Medical and Urgent Care Centre

The doctors discussed the profound challenges presented by COVID-19 and reflected on the toll the pandemic is taking on frontline medical staff. Dr. Rosenstein says that his patients with coronavirus are “among the sickest patients I’ve seen. They present some of the most unique challenges of any sick patients...They have to be alone at the time of their death because their families can’t be with them. It’s just tragic... This is what keeps me up at night.”

Not only are the doctors faced with high numbers of patients suffering from coronavirus, they are also seeing an increase of other kinds of health problems related to social isolation. Right now, says Dr. Perlon, “we’re seeing more psychiatric [problems], we’re seeing more substance abuse, suicide attempts, overdoses – people are doing these things.. because they are stuck at home.”

The doctors agreed that we are still far off from returning to our regular lives. “This is a condition that is highly contagious, there is a small but significant segment of the population that are extremely vulnerable and at risk, and there’s a high mortality,” said Dr. Rosenstein. “Things are not going to return to normal until there’s a vaccine.”

The doctors also suggested that life after this pandemic may not ever be exactly the same as it was, as new precautions – such as working from home and avoiding large crowds - become normalized in our day to day life. “I think we have to accept the fact that we are not going to return to normal. The way things have been is over,” said Dr. Brown.

Drs. Brown, Rosentein, Arbess and Perlon are also members of Doctors4Wiesenthal, a group of distinguished medical professionals dedicated to supporting the work and mandate of FSWC.

Click here to watch the full video.

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