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Family of doctor who died by suicide says overwhelmed healthcare workers need relief

Last Updated Jan 12, 2021 at 12:11 pm MDT

If you or someone you know needs help, reach out to Crisis Services Canada at 1-833-456-4566.

MONTREAL – A Quebec family says it was the pressure and stress of working the frontlines of a pandemic that drove Karine Dion—a doctor, mother, and wife—to take her own life.

Dion, 35, who worked tirelessly through the pandemic, leaves behind her husband and seven-year-old son.

Now, they and others in the medical community have a message: something has to be done to alleviate the pressure on health care workers and prevent the system from crumbling. Simply put—this can’t go on.

“Karine was a very generous person who had one passion in life and it was medicine,” said her husband David Daigle.

“Work had become something she was no longer passionate about because, with COVID-19, treatment had become less about the human aspect.”

Dr. Karine Dion with her husband David Daigle and her son. (Photo provided by David Daigle)

Dion took on this pandemic optimistically, hopeful that she could provide good care and support.

She even created a Facebook group called “bien être et résilience” to help keep the spirits up of other healthcare workers in the eastern townships. But in September, when the second wave hit the province, she began to lose hope.

“She imagined she would eventually have to choose which patient would be seen and get a respirator and which patients she would have to send home. For her, this was unthinkable, and during the first days she was overtaken by that thought and put too much pressure on herself,” said Daigle.

Dr. Karine Dion with her husband David Daigle. (Photo provided by David Daigle)

Palliative care physician Dr. Naheed Dosani says the health of those healthcare workers has been declining.

“Our health workers who work in emergency departments, ICU, hospitals, long-term care, and the community have been dealing with immense stress, mental stress, distress, turmoil, grief, and loss, and there’s not a lot of time to reflect on that loss.”

Quebec hospitals are starting to reach maximum capacity – 56 more patients were admitted Monday with over 1,400 people currently hospitalized from the virus–meaning more work for healthcare workers.

Some say it will only get worse.

“This could have been the tip of the iceberg for her and she just couldn’t handle it. And our system is already designed and needs work, our healthcare system is already in a situation where it needs work and she had to work in a system that is already broken and we are breaking it even more,” said Melanie Jade Boulerice, an ER nurse and the founder of the Nomadic Nurse Agency.

“The entire healthcare community in Canada still is in a state of shock hearing about Dr. Dion’s death and the fact that one of our colleagues in the healthcare community would die by suicide due to the distress that she was facing on the frontlines of this pandemic,” added Dosani.

“We talk a lot about wellness in healthcare, we talk a very good game, but we don’t do a lot.”

If you or someone you know needs help, reach out to Crisis Services Canada anywhere in the country at 1-833-456-4566.

Editor’s note: quotes from Daigle have been translated from French to English