British Columbia

B.C. health-care workers plead for public to follow COVID-19 orders amid burnout fears

B.C.'s healthcare workers are pleading with the public to heed health orders while bracing for a busy stretch as COVID-19 cases in the province continue to soar.

Many are bracing for stressful months ahead as COVID-19 cases spike

A health-care worker is pictured working at Vancouver's first drive-thru COVID-19 testing site, established for health-care workers, in March. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

B.C.'s health-care workers are pleading with the public to heed health orders while bracing for difficult working conditions as COVID-19 cases in the province continue to rise.

On Monday, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced there were another 1,933 cases of COVID-19 over the last three days and 17 more deaths.

This comes just over two weeks after restrictions were initially put in place in the Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health authorities, and a few days after those restrictions were extended to cover the entire province. 

Christine Sorensen, president of the B.C. Nurses' Union, says nurses are frustrated when they see people continue to gather in groups and not follow the guidelines because that increases transmission and puts additional pressure on the health-care system.

"It puts greater demands on the staff that also fairly tired, looking for a bit of a rest and a break and really not seeing anything coming in the next few months, particularly with the holiday season coming and people wanting to mix and mingle with their friends and family," Sorensen said. 

Dr. Kathleen Ross, the president of Doctors of B.C., says the prospect of burnout is looming closer for many front line health-care workers. 

"Many of us are afraid to go home for fear of infecting our loved ones and many more of us drop our clothes at the door and run to the shower before we even greet our family," said Ross. 

"We're adjusting to the new normal ... but of course we cannot expect that surge capacity to last forever."

A mural featuring health-care workers on Vancouver's Granville Street. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

And both Ross and Sorensen point out it is not just front line health-care workers shouldering the burden, but additional staff like cleaning crews and maintenance workers who keep the whole health-care system operational.

"There are lots of unsung heroes in the system, not just in the emergency rooms where there are doctors and nurses taking care of our most acutely ill," Sorensen said. 

Sorensen says she worries the spike in cases could escalate to point where essential health-care workers are kept on the job even if they've been exposed.

"[I'm] very concerned [about that]. Nurses are dedicated and they do want to continue working, but if we get enough nurses exposed or sick, we won't have enough nurses to deliver healthcare," she said. 

Ross says this is a crucial moment.

"If everyone does their part, if we all step forward and follow the public health guidelines as they have been laid out, then we'll get there. But we have to do it all together."

With files from BC Today