'Even in the face of death, they will deny it': Winkler doctor says some COVID-19 patients believe the disease is not real
A doctor at a hospital in Winkler, Man., said this past weekend was the busiest of the pandemic for ICUs, noting that the COVID-19 patients admitted to the facility are not vaccinated and that some believe the disease is not real.
Dr. Ganesan Abbu, a family doctor at Boundary Trails Health Centre, said they’ve seen a surge in cases in the last two weeks. He said at any one time, the facility has 15 to 20 COVID-19 patients and up to three in the special care unit.
Abbu added that Boundary Trails also accounted for about 40 per cent of the patient transfers sent to Winnipeg and Brandon over the weekend.
“If I’m accounting for the numbers correctly, they say it was the busiest weekend in the pandemic so far for Manitoba ICUs,” he said.
“Seventeen new admissions over the weekend, and in that time, we’ve probably sent six or seven intubated patients to those centres.”
Abbu said that many of the COVID-19 patients coming into Boundary Trails hospital are not vaccinated. He noted that though some people were awaiting their vaccination appointments, the majority “refused to be vaccinated.”
Abbu said some patients are angry and upset with their COVID-19 diagnosis, because they don’t believe in COVID-19.
“There is somewhat of a theory, a conspiracy of sorts that we are colluding with big business in making this an issue. That it’s not real,” he said.
Abbu said that despite all of the evidence and the people dying from the disease, the patients believe the government concocted COVID-19 to control people’s lives.
“I think it’s a collision of different world views,” he said.
“That of a science-based community that understands what vaccines are and what infections are, and this other philosophy. Not that they don’t understand it, but they don’t want to feel controlled. I mean, there are some religious attitudes that buy into this as well. But I think the major issue is one of feeling that they are controlled by the government and central agencies.”
As of Monday, Winkler had 79 active COVID-19 cases and its vaccine uptake is 24.9 per cent, according to provincial data.
Winkler Mayor Martin Harder, along with a family physician in the area, Dr. Don Klassen, made a video to help spread the message about COVID-19 from a local source.
"We need each other after this is done. We need the workers back at work, they are healthy. So we need to make sure we do something to prevent us from attracting COVID and the vaccine seems to be working," said Harder.
The hope is people will listen to the message of a trusted medical official in the community.
"I hope they will trust our opinions on this matter as well," said Klassen.
He added that it is disappointing to see Winkler have such a low vaccination rate, but he is a proud citizen and hopes it won't be long before the area catches up with the rest of Manitoba.
Abbu noted he has seen some people who are “deathbed deniers” of COVID-19.
“Even in the face of death, they will deny it,” he said.
He added that other patients have come to understand the severity of the disease.
“I’ve seen patients who have come around in the severity of their illness to understand that this a real issue.”
Abbu noted that the people in his community are good, but that some people are misdirected on the issues.
“This is real,” he said.
“What we are experiencing in our hospitals is real, and there is an urgent need and a responsibility, I would say (we need) more people to get vaccinated because that is the way we keep out of ICUs, we keep out of hospitals, so that we can take care of other patients.”
Abbu said he respects that Winkler is a faith-based community. He said he wants people to work together and realize there is no harm in changing your mind.
“We’re not going to judge people if you now decide that, yes, vaccinations are a good thing, that COVID is real,” he said.
“I would encourage people to consider that and build on the trust that we’ve already established.”
- With files from CTV’s Jill Macyshon.