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

New immigrants to Victoria have online options to combat isolation

The Inter-Cultural Association is going digital to comply with COVID-19 standards

VicPD expands online reporting to keep 911 call-takers free during pandemic

Incidents can be reported online if no information is known of a suspect

Big band fundraiser show at Dunnet theatre rescheduled for Sept. 26

Jazz singer Joe Coughlin, band leader Phil Dwyer remain booked for show

Minor earthquake hits Greater Victoria Saturday morning

Earthquake ‘lightly felt’ in the area, Earthquake Canada says

“Isolation is normal for us,” says Saanich dad with cystic fibrosis

Gordon Head man says now’s the time to approve life-saving cystic fibrosis drug

COVID-19: A message from the publisher

We will be making some changes to our print editions during these unprecedented times

B.C. COVID-19 cases rise 92 to 884, one more death, 81 in care

Outbreak action underway in 12 long-term care homes

B.C. veterinarians want to smooth the fur of COVID-19-worried pet owners

Vets expect to continue giving your fur buddies the help they need while social distancing

B.C. VIEWS: Small businesses need our help

Just as integral in neighbourhoods in Vancouver and Surrey as they are in Prince George or Kelowna

‘Tremendous’ response from blood donors has supply keeping pace with demand

About 400,000 of Canada’s 37 million residents give blood on a regular basis

Morning world update: Cases surge past 600,000; positive news in Germany

Spain suffers its deadliest day as Germany considers April 20 to possibly loosen restrictions

VIDEO: Penguins roam empty halls of Vancouver Aquarium

COVID-19 has forced the Vancouver Aquarium to close access to guests – leaving room for its residents

Most Read