How Sprott Surgery is navigating the pandemic
Dr. Shaf Keshavjee, Dr. Fayez Quereshy, Dr. Barry Rubin, Terri Stuart-McEwan, Dr. Tom Waddell, Donna Williams

​(L to R) Dr. Shaf Keshavjee, Dr. Fayez Quereshy, Dr. Barry Rubin, Terri Stuart-McEwan, Dr. Tom Waddell, Donna Williams

An inside look at how UHN’s surgeons are dealing with the novel coronavirus

In early March, Dr. Fayez Quereshy, Clinical Vice-President at University Health Network (UHN) and a surgical oncologist in the Sprott Department of Surgery, received a flurry of texts from colleagues in Italy and Spain warning him about COVID-19. At the time, the Canadian public wasn’t sure what to make of the novel coronavirus, especially with cases still in the single digits, but Dr. Quereshy’s European colleagues knew what was coming. “This is very real, and it’s scary,” the texts read. “We don’t have enough ventilators. Patients are coming to our emergency departments, and they’re super sick.”

Those reports from abroad motivated Dr. Quereshy to organize an emergency meeting with leaders at the Sprott Department of Surgery, including Dr. Shaf Keshavjee, Surgeon-in-Chief and the James Wallace McCutcheon Chair in Surgery; Terri Stuart-McEwan, Executive Director, Surgical Services in the Sprott Department of Surgery; Dr. Barry Rubin, Medical Director of the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre at UHN, Peter Munk Cardiac Centre Medical Director Chair and vascular surgeon in the Sprott Department of Surgery; and Dr. Tom Waddell, Head of the Division of Thoracic Surgery in the Sprott Department of Surgery, the F.G. Pearson-R.J. Ginsberg Chair in Thoracic Surgery, the Richard and Heather Thomson Chair in Thoracic Translational Research, and the pandemic lead for Sprott Surgery.

For hours, the group sat together, creating a plan to keep surgery patients safe – an Italian study found that 40 per cent of post-surgery patients who had the coronavirus didn’t survive. Plus, the Sprott Surgery team realized they had to start conserving drugs and personal protective equipment (PPE). “Countries were facing shortages of masks and gloves, and the same drugs that were helping keep COVID-19 patients alive in other places were also the drugs we needed to anesthetize patients for an operation,” recalls Stuart-McEwan. “We were scared.”