Nov. 5, 2020

SMA, medical students applaud provincial health officials for mandatory masking decision

The Saskatchewan Medical Association (SMA) commends provincial health officials for their decision to mandate the wearing of non-medical masks in Saskatchewan’s three largest cities.

“The SMA has heard from the province’s physicians that a mandatory mask order was needed at this time to flatten the curve of the COVID-19 virus that we are now experiencing,” said SMA president Dr. Barb Konstantynowicz.

“Our hope is that people who sacrificed so much in the spring to keep COVID numbers as low as possible will now redouble their commitment to abide by public health orders. Like everyone else, physicians want the health system to return safely to normal, but that cannot be achieved without each of us taking steps such as wearing non-medical masks in public, practising physical distancing and hand hygiene, and limiting your social bubble,” Dr. Konstantynowicz said.

The public health order requiring non-medical masks in indoor public places goes into effect on Nov. 6 in Regina, Saskatoon and Prince Albert. The order is effective for at least 28 days. Health officials strongly recommend the wearing of masks for residents in other communities.

Last Saturday, Oct. 31, delegates to the SMA virtual 2020 Fall Representative Assembly passed a resolution calling for mandatory masking. The resolution supported an initiative of the Student Medical Society of Saskatchewan (SMSS), which intends to lobby the provincial and municipal governments on the issue.

“By endorsing this resolution, physicians took a stand in favour of mandatory masking,” Dr. Konstantynowicz said. “The SMA applauds the SMSS for bringing this issue forward and for arguing passionately on behalf of the health of Saskatchewan people for mandatory masking.”

Future physicians feel need to speak out

Annie Dinh, who spoke at the SMA’s RA as senior rep on the SMSS’s Government Affairs and Advocacy Committee, said the resolution is a step in what the committee hopes will be a continuous dialogue with the provincial government and stakeholders. As medical students, they also hope to encourage mask wearing among the younger population and promote an informative discussion on the issue.

“We hope to create an upstream plan with the government that can be rapidly implemented if active cases increase again,” said Dinh, who is a second-year medical student. “This plan includes action to be taken in communities outside of Saskatoon, Regina, and Prince Albert, as well as an action plan to contest any future COVID-19 outbreaks.”

Ava Bayat, the junior rep on the SMSS committee, said data gathered from the first few weeks of mandatory masking will guide any further response by the SMSS. Regardless, as medical students they felt compelled to speak out.

“I believe that as members of society and future physicians, our responsibility is to not only protect ourselves, but to look out for the best interests of our community,” said Bayat, who is in her first year. “An easy way to do this is by ensuring that we are all wearing masks in public places. Mandatory masking is a low-cost, high-feasibility containment measure that can help protect our loved ones.”

By endorsing this resolution, physicians took a stand in favour of mandatory masking. The SMA applauds the SMSS for bringing this issue forward and for arguing passionately on behalf of the health of Saskatchewan people for mandatory masking.

Dr. Barb Konstantynowicz

President, Saskatchewan Medical Association

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