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Dr. Karim Solimon at Lakeridge Health Oshawa fighting COVID-19 in the Durham Region

Dr. Karim Solimon at Lakeridge Health Oshawa fighting COVID-19 in the Durham Region

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Dr. Karim Solimon at Lakeridge Health Oshawa fighting COVID-19 in the Durham Region

Dr. Karim Solimon at Lakeridge Health Oshawa fighting COVID-19 in the Durham Region

Staff Story

Dr. Karim Solimon's Story-Fighting COVID-19

Chief Medical Director of Critical Care at Lakeridge Health

During these challenging times, one thing is certain at our Lakeridge Health Hospitals – the very best experts are at the helm of patient care.  Armed with their extensive knowledge and the support of our community our local health heroes are leading the fight against COVID-19.

One of these experts is Dr. Karim Soliman, Chief Medical Director of Critical Care at Lakeridge Health. Dr. Soliman and his team began preparations for this battle well before it became a global pandemic.

“We were planning our response to COVID-19 back in January,” says Dr. Soliman. “As with any major virus that starts to hit other countries, you follow the news and you start to create a plan so that you are not caught off guard. We put together a task force to plan and develop how our procedures were going to change while still focusing on high quality patient care.” 

As part of Lakeridge Health’s official COVID-19 response team, Dr. Soliman and his colleagues – experts in infection control and surge planning – began working diligently to anticipate the impacts on our Hospital. Such as planning how to safely assess patients for COVID-19 and how the teams would have to change the way they respond to a code blue alert when a patient goes into cardiac arrest.

“Our teams are required to follow strict guidelines for using personal protective equipment (PPE) including how to put it on, take it off, and how frequently to do so. While this has added a complexity to the way we treat patients we’ve always made sure that the patient experience remains a priority,” says Dr. Soliman.

PPE includes anything from face masks and shields to gloves and hand sanitizer. As one of the most important tools for our Hospital staff in Durham Region’s fight against COVID-19, Dr. Soliman and all his colleagues have been overwhelmed by the community’s response to donate these items. “We’re very grateful for what the community has donated, from skids of N95 masks to even ventilators from Durham College,” he says.

Dr. Soliman explains that it is truly a team effort in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) where he leads a multidisciplinary team of care providers. “Everyone plays an important role, from physicians, nurses, and respiratory therapists to our admin and patient care managers. This culminates when patients are extubated and are well enough to move out of the ICU. It’s a very positive moment in the patient’s journey, which we have been celebrating by the whole team gathering in the halls and clapping-out the graduation out of the ICU.”

In Critical Care specifically, family members are often key players in the care team. With strict visitor restrictions in place, virtual care has become extremely important. Virtual connection options allow Dr. Soliman’s team to continue consulting with family members and share special moments of celebration. “In one instance, we had a patient who came off the ventilator and the family didn’t know yet. We called for a video chat and were able to surprise them,” recalls Dr. Soliman.

It is moments such as these that the team in Critical Care cherish even when COVID-19 continues to challenge daily life. The Virtual Connections program, which allows family members to connect with their loved one during their Hospital stay was made possible thanks to donations to the Durham Fights COVID-19 campaign which has now raised over $1 million.

There are many reasons to thank the Durham Region community. For Dr. Soliman in particular, he credits our community for the fact that our Hospital never experienced a significant surge in the ICU.

“We haven’t seen the same surge that occurred in other jurisdictions like New York and Italy. That has a lot to do with the sacrifices everyone has made. We see the direct link here in the ICU and I want to say thank you.”  

As social distancing restrictions change in the coming weeks, Dr. Soliman says to remain diligent. “The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t over yet and it’s important for people not to be complacent.”

Dr. Solimon shares the following tips for community members as stores, workplaces and public spaces begin to re-open:

  1. Continue to maintain social distancing whenever possible and if you can’t, consider wearing a non-medical mask.
  2. Hand Hygiene! Wash those hands and make it a practice moving forward.
  3. Monitor Durham Region Public Health guidelines and always use trusted sources when looking for advice.
  4. If you are concerned that you have symptoms of COVID-19 – reach out to the COVID-19 Assessment Center.