It's been five years since Chi Kwai Tse reported at The Scarborough Hospital, Grace Division of his unknown respiratory illness, the same one that had killed his mother two days earlier.
It was subsequently diagnosed as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), a deadly new disease that spread to others because Tse was left untreated for over 16 hours in the Scarborough Hospital's emergency department.
After the death of 44-year-old Tse, Greater Toronto Area went on to see two pandemic outbreaks, including SARS II that broke out at North York General Hospital.
Justice Archie Campbell's commission into SARS referred to Tse's final hours in Scarborough Hospital as 'the kick-start of the outbreak.' Tse transmitted SARS to two other patients that set off an infectious chain spreading through Scarborough Grace Hospital and from there to other hospitals through patient transfers.† Finally 44 patients died of SARS and 330 others were seriously sick by the infection.† The report urged the officials to learn from previous omissions and implement crisis management techniques more efficiently in case another pandemic strikes in the future.
Health Minister George Smitherman announced Ontario's new Health Protection and Promotion Agency at a press conference to commemorate the fifth anniversary of SARS.† The agency, which will be modelled on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is to be named after Dr. Sheela Basrur, Toronto's former medical officer of health.† Dr. Basrur helped control a panic situation and reassure the terrified people in Toronto by her public appearances during the SARS crisis.
Dr. Basrur went on to become Ontario's chief medical officer but resigned the post in December 2006 after being diagnosed with hemangiopericytoma, a rare form of cancer. Her fight against the disease continues.
Carol Oates, president of Local 24 of the Ontario Nurses Association at Rouge Valley Health System, said she doubts if there are enough nurses to handle another outbreak.† She expressed her concern about the emotional strain a pandemic would have on health-care workers, who dreaded contracting SARS and passing the disease on to their families.
Though Health Minister George Smitherman expressed confidence at being prepared to tackle any future health crisis, health officials complain that there is a serious shortage of front line health-care workers and a lack of sufficient negative-pressure rooms in hospitals.