Medical personnel at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital, conduct drive-thru COVID-19 testing in Park Ridge, Ill., Thursday, March 19, 2020. Chicago officials have ordered all people with confirmed cases of COVID-19 or showing symptoms of the disease caused by it to stay indoors. The order issued Thursday formalized previous advice seeking to limit the spread of the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

B.C. man with COVID-19 symptoms forced to call 811 more than 100 times

Mission resident fearful that he may have transmitted coronavirus during multiple trips to airport and hospital

Gordon Mohs has been in self-isolation for nearly a week, after developing what he first thought was a cold.

But as his symptoms progressed, so has his worry that he has COVID-19 and may have contracted it – and possibly passed it along – during multiple plane rides from Vancouver to northern B.C. in recent weeks while helping his 91-year-old step-dad recover from major surgery.

“I was feeling exhausted, and then I started coughing Monday night and I self-isolated,” he told Black Press Media by phone from his home in Mission.

Mohs, 69, said he started to worry as his symptoms began to align with what health officials have warned the public to be on the lookout for: coughing, fever, tiredness and difficulty breathing.

“Tuesday I started really feeling it, so I tried 811 and I couldn’t get through,” Mohs said. “After the first seven or eight tries I thought ‘this is crazy’ and so we started counting it.”

ALSO READ: Do you think you have COVID-19? Here is what to do next

After 91 attempts to connect during the busy afternoon hours, Mohs gave up and decided to try again at about 4 a.m. on Wednesday.

Dozens more attempts later, he managed to get patched through – waiting more than hour to speak with a nurse.

“There’s this person that keeps coming on saying ‘the navigator will be with you’ and I don’t know if you have ever gotten through but it’s awful… the recording went on and on.”

Once through, Mohs made a plea to be tested, he said, only to be told to self-isolate, avoid going to a hospital, and check back if his symptoms got worse.

“I thought that was really frustrating hearing that, I finally just hung up,” he said. “I’m concerned, I’m sick.”

B.C. health care workers being bombarded with questions to 811

Mohs is certainly not the only one in B.C. on edge over the virus, and many front-line workers are feeling the crunch.

Health Minister Adrian Dix told reporters during the daily COVID-19 briefing that HealthLink BC staff are dealing with 3,000 to 4,000 calls per day. The newly launched non-emergency COVID-19 hotline saw 1,800 callers in the first 24 hours.

Close to a million people visited the online assessment tool less than a day after it went live, created to help bring relief to the HealthLink staff. But even so, as a person makes their way through the questionnaire, a number of answers direct them to self isolate and call 811 if symptoms become more severe.

READ MORE: Isolated Abbotsford doctor issues desperate plea for the public to take drastic COVID-19 action

For Mohs, the concern transcends his own health to the many he came into contact with before he started developing symptoms. That includes those at a Quesnel Hospital where he spent six hours earlier this month for his step-dad’s pre-surgery appointment and five trips over several weeks between Vancouver International Airport and Prince George Airport.

“I want to do what I can to self-isolate, but we aren’t doing enough testing,” he said. “If I was infectious [in the hospital] than we have a problem.”

As of Friday, March 20, 17,000 people in B.C. had been swabbed for COVID-19, health officials confirmed, with more than 300 positive cases.

As those tests make their way through the labs, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry expects the number of confirmed cases will rise at staggering levels as tests “reconcile” with the number of actual cases.

Moving forward, the province said it will be focusing its efforts on testing the most vulnerable, specifically health care workers, the elderly and anyone linked to clusters of cases and the current outbreak at the Lynn Valley Care Home in North Vancouver.

Finally goes through drive-thru clinic as symptoms worsen

On Thursday, Mohs was able to see a nurse practitioner face-to-face, but only after attempting to see a doctor at a drop-in clinic.

“When the nurse saw my symptoms she told me to go home and self-isolate,” he said. “I informed her that I had been self-isolating since Monday, but that my conditions were getting worse.”

After threatening to go to the emergency room, the doctor wrote Mohs a note recommending he be swab-tested and directed him to a drive-thru testing centre set up in Abbotsford.

“Eventually, while in my vehicle – window partway down – two nurses asked me a number of questions about my symptoms, took my temperature, pulse and oxygen reading and informed me that this phase was only an ‘assessment’ of my condition, and if warranted I would be taken inside the arena to a patient room for further examination,” Mohs said.

“I was taken inside where I met a nurse practitioner, who did further tests.”

Mohs was told he had some of the conditions, but not all.

READ MORE: COVID-19 precautions ‘not optional,’ B.C.’s Dr. Bonnie Henry warns

“I was informed that the government was restricting testing to medical personnel and vulnerable seniors, and that I didn’t qualify, but that if I got worse I was to come back, or if I found difficulty breathing I should call 911 or go to emergency.”

For Mohs, the biggest frustration is that no health official has asked him why he is so concerned about being tested – fueling his largest fear that he has infected his step-father.

He said he doesn’t blame the health care workers on the frontlines and knows they are doing the best they can.

While the World Health Organization tells countries to “test, test, test” as the key to containing the spread of the disease, Mohs feels the government isn’t being honest about their testing capacity.

“What the government doesn’t recognize is the anxiety they have created by lack of information on availability of individual testing,” he said.

For now, Mohs has one option: to self-isolate and hope his symptoms get better or have them get severe enough to require to be tested.

“I will self-isolate, but I am very angry.”


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Boundary friends make the best of a birthday in isolation

11-year-old Becca Macfarlane had hoped to go bowling with her friends

Q&A: Interior Health CEO answers questions on COVID-19 response

Susan Brown, president and CEO of Interior Health, answers questions regarding COVID-19

6.5-magnitude earthquake in Idaho shakes the Kootenays

An earthquake was reportedly felt just before 5 p.m. throughout parts of B.C. and Alberta

Gallery 2 launches new online art program

Every Wednesday the gallery will post a prompt to inspire artists at home

Grand Forks and Boundary cancellations, changes due to COVID-19

This newspaper’s list of community events, institutions that change or cancel due to pandemic

‘We don’t need this right now’: B.C. man breaks up road rage incident

Two men were throwing punches on Tillicum Road in Saanich on Vancouver Island

Migrant worker advocates blame feds, employers for COVID-19 outbreak at B.C. garden store

Migrant farm worker group calls on government for adequate health and safety requirements

‘There can be no ambiguity’: Travellers brought home to B.C. must self-isolate

Health Minister Adrian Dix said the mandatory isolation must be abided by

COVID-19 has been impacting Canadian economy since January

But full effects of pandemic won’t be known for months

Doctors trained abroad want to join front lines of COVID-19 fight in Canada

B.C. is looking to allow internationally trained doctors to work under the supervision of attending physicians

Fake test kits and other COVID online scams play on public anxiety: fraud centre

Vancouver has seen a spike in commercial property crimes, with offices and stores empty because of COVID-19

Canada’s 75% wage subsidy is coming, but not for several weeks: finance minister

Subsidy will cost Canada $71 billion, but push down cost of emergency benefit, Morneau said

Feds amplify stay-home message as cost of financial aid to Canadians mounts

Liberals have unveiled around $200B in direct financial aid and tax deferrals

Most Read