Don’t stop seeking medical help, says Nunavut’s top doctor

Dr. Michael Patterson doesn’t want fear of COVID-19 to stop people from seeking health care

Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s chief public health officer, said the patient on medical travel from Nunavut who tested positive for COVID-19 while down south is “well and stable.” (File photo)

By Meagan Deuling
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Government of Nunavut is being tight-lipped about the resident who tested positive for COVID-19 while out of the territory on medical travel.

The person is “well and stable,” said Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s chief public health officer, during a news conference today.

But the GN won’t say which community the individual is from or where they were when they became infected. It also won’t say whether the person became infected while staying at a medical boarding home in the south.

That’s because, Patterson said, the information he has right now doesn’t indicate that any other Nunavut resident is at risk of contracting COVID-19 from this person.

“There’s no benefit to disclosing,” Patterson said. “It invades privacy.”

Beyond invading privacy, Patterson said they don’t want Nunavummiut to avoid medical travel for fear of becoming infected with the coronavirus themselves.

“We did consider not disclosing even as much as we did for fear of aggravating that,” Patterson said.

Patterson encourages people going for scheduled medical care to talk to a health care provider to weigh the risks of seeking treatment versus staying put, and to ask about things they can do to reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19 if they travel.

“For many of the things that people are still going south for, the threat to their health if they delay or cancel medical care is greater than the threat from COVID 19,” Patterson said.

Patterson also said staff at Embassy West are doing an “exemplary” job of minimizing the risk of COVID-19 in the facility.

The long-term care facility in Ottawa that houses about 30 Nunavut elders announced over the weekend that one staff member tested positive for COVID-19. Patterson said Nunavut residents staying at the long-term care facility did not have any contact with that staff person, who’s now self-isolating.

“We’re concerned, and we’re paying close attention, but we’re pleased with how they responded so far,” he said.

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