Local doctor praised for information sharing, posts a third statement

Pienaar said he was taken aback by the multitude of supportive posts

A Prince Rupert doctor is being praised and commended by local residents for his efforts with information sharing to the public about a recent presumed positive COVID-19 case at Prince Rupert Regional Hospital.

In the third Facebook post, on April 10, regarding the presumptive positive case of COVID -19, Dr. Marius Pienaar said that not being social media savvy, he was taken aback with the more than 1,000 shares within the first two hours on the first post when he notified the public of a case that had since been transferred out of Prince Rupert. He said he is thankful and overwhelmed by the public support.

“What is clear to me, is that the public is seeking more information, but keep in mind that I am not at liberty to discuss a particular case. I can only discuss the Covid situation in this town in general, without breaching patient confidentiality. I think some clarification is necessary to address some confusion and some of the negative comments,” Pienaar said in his post.

Pienaar who is an obstetrician-gynecologist, said he spoke out as in individual and not to represent any group or organization.

“I am not an employee of Northern Health. I also do not work for the government. I am an independent practitioner as are most of our doctors. We are held up to a professional code of conduct that is universal, and that not only protects individuals, but also the populations that we serve,” Pienaar said.

“There is a fine balance between the public good and individual rights to privacy and confidentiality. We realize that we have to negotiate that balance by specifically being vague and leaving any identifying information out. I notice many requests for more specific information, but unfortunately this is not possible. I believe we can achieve our goal of awareness without it.”

Pienaar said the current COVID-19 threat presents new challenges and decisions have to be made ‘on the fly’.

“I can assure you that Northern Health is doing its best to be ready and to safeguard the public and their staff. I have a lot of respect for what they have achieved in such a short time. They are bound by the provincial authorities in what they can do and say, much more than I am since I am not an employee.”

“If the next Northwest case happens to be in Prince Rupert, where will you want to get your information? From the rumour-mill? How long do you think a case will remain a secret?,” Pienaar said.

The doctors group was confronted with the situation where they had to decide if the information was to be spread by rumour, which had already happened with inaccuracies, Pienaar said, or by a reliable source with the intent to motivate and protect.

In his post, Pienaar noted Dr. David Bowering, former chief medical officer of Northern Health, and his opinion of not naming confirmed Covid-19 cases in northern communities as being a dangerous practice due to the long delays experienced in receiving test results back from Vancouver.

“Presently this is a multi-day process for remote sites like Prince Rupert. He [Bowering] wants the province to identify the communities that have active cases. I agree wholeheartedly with him, and from the comments on the post it seems as if the public feels this way too,” Pienaar said.

As a healthcare worker, Pienaar said he wants to know about the cases in his community and what he is up against so he can prepare. The public, he believes, wants to know the same.

There have been regrettable cases of irresponsible public behaviour which Pineaar said comes from a sense of oblivion that puts everyone in danger.

“I had hoped that my recent post would have the following effect: Wake the public in Prince Rupert up to the fact that the virus is here! In fact, every community should believe it is there…In these difficult times we are going to be expected to give up some of our personal rights for the greater good of the community. I am hoping that this can be achieved with co-operation rather than coercion,” Pienaar said.

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