Regina doctor Youssef Al-Begamy dies of COVID-19 in Ontario hospital

‘His spirit was quite joyful and pleasant, and he was a happy person,’ says friend and fellow physician

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Youssef Al-Begamy, a charismatic and popular physician in Regina, has died in a Toronto hospital.

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He was one of many Saskatchewan COVID-19 patients transferred to Ontario last month as Saskatchewan hospitals surged far beyond their intensive care unit capacity.

Two other patients in this cohort also died in the last few days, but their identities are not disclosed.

Al-Begamy died Sunday, and a funeral service took place the following day in Moose Jaw, where he also worked, according to his friend and fellow physician Fauzi Ramadan.

Tributes on social media painted a picture of a lively character built like a linebacker. CTV aired video from 2018 of him skydiving in Saskatchewan .

CBC reported Al-Begamy had surgery on his shoulder before he fell sick with COVID-19, but it is not clear how or where he was infected.

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Ramadan said he is coordinating plans to deliver Al-Begamy’s body to Saudi Arabia, where he came from, in accordance with the wishes of his mother. He told The Canadian Press it was difficult to deliver news of Al-Begamy’s death to his sisters and mother. He had no immediate family in Canada.

“He is loved by all of his colleagues. He is a person that had no problem with anybody, and everybody says Youssef was a good person, and that was his character,” Ramadan said. “His spirit was quite joyful and pleasant, and he was a happy person.”

He said he spent all day Monday fielding phone calls from people in British Columbia and throughout Saskatchewan who worked with Al-Begamy.

Saskatchewan continues to struggle in the pandemic’s fourth wave with nearly 200 in hospital and more than 50 in intensive care. Ontario hospitals are still caring for 18 of the transferred Saskatchewan patients.

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When transfers began in mid-October, Saskatchewan Health Authority CEO Scott Livingstone said the province was seeing “unprecedented rates of hospitalizations and ICU admissions. This is pushing the system to a place where we are not providing care to non-COVID patients across this province as we should be.”

This failure of the province’s health system led Premier Scott Moe to apologize. “I am sorry that we have experienced those slowdowns here in the province, and the government will do everything we can to ensure those services are available to Saskatchewan people as soon as we are able,” he said last month.

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