Hospital CEO drives across U.S. border to secure medication for ICU patient amid COVID-19

Driving across the border to retrieve medication from Michigan isn’t a typical part of Windsor Regional Hospital CEO David Musyj’s job, but desperate times called for desperate measures. 

“You do what you got to do, it’s [an] unprecedented world that we’re living in and again the focus is on the patient,” he told CBC News. 

Musyj says on Sunday, a hospital pharmacist called him and said there was patient who urgently needed medication but the closest place that had the doses the patient needed was the University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbour, Mich.

Musyj would not disclose the name of the medication, citing patient privacy, but said there was only one other dose at an Ontario hospital and his hospital needed several.

The pharmacist said they were more than willing to drive to the U.S., personally, but wanted to ensure they would make it back into Canada and asked if they would then have to quarantine, Musyj recounted. 

Normally, a trip like this would be out of the norm for the hospital, but not nearly as uncertain, Musyj said. Border restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic had both Musyj and the pharmacist unclear on the rules with a patient in such dire circumstances. 

Musyj said it took him two hours to cross the border, get the medication and end up back on Canadian soil. He noted how “eerie” the border was, with hardly any traffic. (Rob/Gurdebeke)

As a dual citizen Musyj said he knew he’d have less trouble making it through customs — so he volunteered to go instead. 

“The last thing we wanted to do was send someone who gets stopped at the border and gets sent back and we lose valuable time.”

He said he told the pharmacist, “[The] hospital’s going to survive without me physically being there, we need you more than me.” 

In total, Musyj said it took two hours to make the return trip. 

“It was eerie at the United States border,” he said, adding that he had no trouble getting across. But it was when he tried to re-enter Canada that he hit bumps in the road.  

He was stopped and questioned, during which he said he recalled telling the border agents, “You can do whatever you want with me, but this medication has got to get to the hospital.”

They said he’d be allowed to cross into the country, but because he was under quarantine once he got onto Canadian soil, the most he could do was slowly drive by the hospital and have hospital staff grab the medication from his car window. 

He said he did just that and has been in quarantine ever since. 

Quarantine exemptions for medication needed: Musyj

Musyj said the whole experience emphasized the need for him and his staff to be able to make these sorts of trips. 

This is the first time this has happened since the pandemic began — and Musyj said even before COVID-19 it was a rare occurrence — but he wants to make sure they’re prepared in a pinch.

“The fact that it happened once means it can happen again,” he said. 

As a result, Musyj said he’s brought this situation to the attention of Windsor-Tecumseh Liberal MP Irek Kusmierczyk so that they can work on getting some type of pre-approval and quarantine exemption should the hospital ever need to do this again. 

At this time, while the federal government’s mandatory isolation rules do contain medical exemptions, the rules don’t explicitly say a person can be exempt from quarantine for bringing medication into Canada. 

Musyj said from the orders he’s read, he believes he would qualify but is in talks with Kusmierczyk to confirm. 

Canadian isolation guidelines mention those who are exempt include people “providing medical care, transporting essential medical equipment supplies or means of treatment, or delivering, maintaining or repairing medically necessary equipment or devices, as long as they do no directly care for persons 65 years of age or older within the 14-day period that begins on the day on which the person enters Canada.” 

Kusmierczyk’s office, told CBC staff are working on this “unique situation” and have flagged the case to Minister of Health Patty Hajdu. 

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