Photo of Marco Caminiti

Dentistry professor helps support COVID-19 patients in Humber River Hospital’s ICU

By Rachel Boutet

When Humber River Hospital announced the need for volunteers in the intensive care unit to treat COVID-19 patients, the Faculty of Dentistry’s Marco Caminiti jumped at the opportunity.

“When the call came out, it got my attention right away,” says Caminiti, 9T8 Dip OMFS, assistant professor and graduate program director of oral and maxillofacial surgery at the Faculty. “I was drawn to it as something I can do rather than sitting passively.”

In Humber’s ICU, while the demand for critical care is increasing, many beds remain empty. It’s not a lack of space that’s the issue – it’s the number of nurses required to care for all of the potential patients.

The work being done by Caminiti and the other volunteers has allowed many patients who were previously being relocated to Ottawa and Kingston, to stay in Toronto. This eliminates the need to transfer a sick patient and keeps them closer to their families.

“Humber River Hospital has the largest number of ICU beds, and with our help, we are able to make sure as many of those beds as possible are filled with patients who require care,” says Caminiti. 

Professor Marco Caminiti working in Humber River Hospital's ICU
Marco Caminiti working in Humber River Hospital's ICU

Caminiti underwent three days of intensive training to become an ICU physical assist. His days at the hospital are long, starting with an hour of preparation, followed by a 12-hour shift and another hour of paperwork. His job is to provide one-on-one care to patients and give important feedback to the doctors on staff.

“Working in the ICU is a unique opportunity for all of us volunteering,” says Caminiti. “While we aren’t ICU doctors or nurses, we each bring in a special skill set that can help look at situations with different lens.”

For example, many patients are intubated and need to be rotated which can place their heads in awkward positions. Caminiti, like other oral and maxillofacial surgeons experienced in upper airway management, helped the unit with a novel halo to help safely cradle their heads.

Being in the ICU has been an eye-opening experience for Caminiti. His floor has 30 patients on ventilators due to COVID-19 and he’s seen the burnout felt by the nurses.

“I’ve gained such an appreciation the work the ICU staff do,” says Caminiti. “It really highlights my frustration of some public perception of the disease. I would invite any skeptic to walk through the ICU. When you see the number of sick people, it’s undeniable how serious this is.”

Caminiti will continue to volunteer his time until operating rooms open back up, likely within a few weeks. He credits his colleagues at the Faculty for enabling his work at the hospital.

“Trying to balance my time in the ICU on top of everything else has been overwhelming at times,” he says. “My colleagues that can’t volunteer are busy keeping the programs running at the Faculty. I couldn’t do it without their support.”

For more information about Caminiti’s volunteer work in the ICU, watch this clip from Global News.

Learn more about Caminiti’s work with the Faculty’s OMFS program.

Photo: Assistant professor Marco Caminiti (Jeff Comber)