COVID hospitalizations in northern B.C. hit record high, 2 more lives lost
Online booking system launched to keep up with demand for new tests as cases in region climb
British Columbia's Northern Health Authority has launched an online booking system for COVID-19 tests as cases in the region rise high above provincial averages.
Northern B.C. is currently reporting more than double the provincial average of new COVID-19 cases, and hospitalizations per 100,000 people are more than four times that of other health regions.
As a result, the province has opened new critical care beds elsewhere in the province dedicated to supporting hospital capacity in northern B.C., and on Monday afternoon, Health Minister Adrian Dix told reporters that a total of 32 people had been transported from ICU beds in the north to other parts of the province.
"Twenty-six of those are COVID-positive cases and none of them — none, zero, of the 26 — are fully vaccinated," he said.
The B.C. Centre for Disease Control is currently reporting 79 people in northern B.C. are hospitalized for COVID-19, setting a new record for the region.
And Dr. Firas Mansour, Northern Health's medical lead for Prince George, said it is unlikely the current wave has hit its peak.
"We've reached an unprecedented level of patients admitted to hospitals," he told CBC Daybreak North host Carolina de Ryk. "We're using every possible resource to care for our patients."
In addition to strapped emergency rooms, Northern Health is also contending with two hospital outbreaks of COVID-19: one at Wrinch Memorial Hospital in Hazelton and the other in the primary care unit of the University Hospital of Northern B.C. in Prince George.
An outbreak at the Jubilee Lodge long-term care facility, which is attached to the hospital in Prince George, has now claimed six lives, as well.
A total of 176 people in northern B.C. have died of COVID, with two new deaths recorded over the weekend.
As a result of the climbing cases in the region, the Lheidli T'enneh First Nation has restricted access to its reserve land just outside Prince George.
'This is preventable'
Mansour said staff are feeling burned out and frustrated as resources are diverted to look after largely unvaccinated patients being admitted into emergency rooms.
While he said everyone admitted will receive care, he urged people sitting on the fence to get vaccinated to avoid contributing to the mounting crisis.
"This is preventable," he said.
From Sept. 17 to 30, people who were not fully vaccinated accounted for 81.4 per cent of hospitalizations, according to the province. After factoring for age, people not vaccinated are 25 times more likely to be hospitalized than those who are fully vaccinated, it said.
Delays in testing, contact tracing
Residents of northern B.C. have also complained of long wait-times in order to book COVID-19 tests, leading to delays in contact tracing.
Northern Health's chief medical health officer, Dr. Jong Kim, said the primary bottleneck has been the limitations of the health authority's phone-booking system and, as a result, an online booking system was launched Monday morning.
"Once the booking is done, your test should be done within a day," he said. Turnaround time for getting the results should be within 48 hours, he said.
Need a COVID-19 test? Booking is now available online! <a href="https://t.co/2hmBrLL4YM">https://t.co/2hmBrLL4YM</a> <br>You can also continue to call the Northern Health Virtual Clinic at 1-844-645-7811 or your family doctor or nurse practitioner to book a test. <a href="https://t.co/Qin8zU98sj">pic.twitter.com/Qin8zU98sj</a>—@Northern_Health
With files from Tanya Fletcher