November 29, 2021
Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Debakanta Jena dons personal protective equipment before assisting in the care of COVID-19 patients. Jena has stepped up to support colleagues in acute care at Medicine Hat Regional Hospital.
Story by Kelly Morris | Photo by Leah Hennel
When the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic pushed the healthcare system to the brink, an urgent call went out for more space, equipment, resources and especially staff to swiftly boost ICU capacity.
In response, doctors and nurses from diverse backgrounds put up their hands to ask: “How can I help?” One of many who answered the call across the province was Dr. Debakanta Jena, an orthopedic surgeon at Medicine Hat Regional Hospital (MHRH).
“I really couldn’t stop myself from coming down and trying my best to help,” he says. “It’s a completely different skill-set, but I felt it was my duty to see if I could be of any help here. I’ve always respected my colleagues, always knew it was a very difficult job to work here, and I just wanted to be of help to them.”
Jena, who’s been a surgeon at the hospital for 14 years, now accepts shifts to assist in the COVID-19 acute care unit at MHRH.
Working alongside him is Registered Nurse Michele Welford, who has 30 years of OR and ambulatory care experience.
“This is different than anything, even when there was a trauma in the OR, this is different,” says Welford. “The patients are sick. Some of them you can’t help, and in nursing, we’re supposed to be helping people, we’re supposed to be making them better. And some of these people, you can’t make them better. It’s heartbreaking.”
“Naturally, we’re accustomed to looking after sick people,” adds Dr. Carl Nohr, associate zone medical director in the south zone.
“But never this many at a time — and with such severe illness. That’s taxing, on peoples energy, on their ability to manage their day to day lives — so when we have individuals willing to step forward and work outside their normal job description to help out, it really lowers the temperature a bit for everyone on the team.”