Dr. David Zukor is the chief of Orthopedic Surgery at the Jewish General Hospital. During a distinguished medical career that has already spanned more than three decades, with a specialization in hip and knee replacement, he has never before spoken out on any government policies – until now.
Making it abundantly clear that he is speaking merely as a private citizen, not on behalf of his hospital, Dr. Zukor contacted me a few days ago to express his deep concern that at the same time the number of COVID-19 cases are rising in Quebec, the provincial government is easing restrictions. He points specifically to indoor gatherings of up to 250 people, which will be permitted as of Monday, August 3.
Struggling with how he could make an impact and encourage the government to draw back on this plan, Dr. Zukor went to change.org for the very first time in his life and launched an online petition aimed at physicians.
“We, Quebec doctors urge the government to postpone the planned easing of restrictions, especially allowing indoor gatherings of 250 people,” the petition reads. “We are in a period of increasing infections and this is not the time to be playing with fire. We must be proactive and prevent a second wave.”
As of August 3rd they were getting close to 5,000 signatures. While it was meant for physicians, Dr. Zukor is very pleased how many private citizens have decided to sign on as well. “We do have several hundred physicians who have supported this,” he said. “Why did someone like me step up? I have never done anything like this before. But I really did not see anyone else speaking up; no medical associations or medical leaders! It really disturbed me. We might not be able to stop this by August 3, but I am hoping we will gain traction to convince the government to scale back before it is too late.
“Look at Israel,” Dr. Zukor added. “At the start they were the country that seemed to have this virus under the best control. Then they opened things up again too quickly and it spiraled out of control.”
Dr. Zukor is actively urging many of his colleagues to sign on and become spokespersons for this movement. In addition, he would like to see medical students speak up as well. “These are our future doctors, in their 20s who can influence an age group that needs to be reminded that participating in large gatherings is not a good idea,”
The “250” number concerns Dr. Zukor greatly. “There will be weddings, parties and religious gatherings,” he says. “We saw what happened in March when the pandemic started here and how dangerous that was."
Rabbi Alan Bright from the Shaare Zedek Congregation in NDG signed the petition and wrote: “With all the best intentions of people who wish to gather and pledge social distancing, I’ve personally watched numerous gatherings where social distancing surreptitiously and perhaps unintentionally shrinks. Medically little has changed, thus I feel it is unsafe to allow such large gatherings at this time.”
Dr. Paul Warshawsky, the JGH ‘s Chief of Adult Critical Care, stated: “Large gatherings run the risk of large-scale transmission of the virus. Community transmission is already increasing with the reopening of some activities, but this has generally resulted in a small number of secondary cases in each event. Large scale gatherings, and the subsequent transmission from them, were a major source of the influx of cases early in the pandemic. We want to avoid a recurrence of this so that healthcare resources do not get overwhelmed with a sudden surge in cases.”
Dr. Astrid Lacouture, who has a family practice in Brossard wrote:” I am a doctor And it is still too early.”
And this from Marguerite Quincey: “Because I’m an ER nurse and I don’t want to see more people die from this virus.”
Emergency Physician Dr. Sara Ahronhem wrote: “We need to avoid precipitating a second wave.”
Dr. Zukor hopes to add more of a francophone component to this campaign as well.