British Columbia

More detailed breakdown of COVID-19 testing needed in northern B.C., says region's former health officer

The former chief medical health officer for Northern Health is calling on the B.C. government to provide individual communities with COVID-19 test results.

Dr. David Bowering says communities too spread apart for number of northern cases to be useful

The former medical health officer of Northern Health is calling on the province to let communities know where people who have tested positive for COVID-19 are located. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

The former chief medical health officer for Northern Health is calling on the B.C. government to provide individual communities with COVID-19 test results.

Dr. David Bowering says there needs to be more transparency about the specific location of the cases, because it does the north a disservice to lump cases together when communities are so spread apart.  

"It's like lumping the data in Vancouver together with the data in Winnipeg, it's not helpful," Bowering said. 

On Thursday, the province repealed any local states of emergency in effect in B.C. to ensure a top-down, co-ordinated response to the pandemic from the provincial level. 

Bowering said there can be risks to the piecemeal approach of different communities enacting their own states of emergency, but also said individual communities know what is best for them. 

"Nobody knows how the north works as well as northerners," he said. 

The former head of Northern Health says each northern community is unique and has individual needs. (Andrew Kurjata)

B.C. mayors were warned during a conference call Monday that a centralized approach was coming, but some municipalities were disappointed to see their local efforts taken away. 

"It seems to me that some of the momentum will be lost in this changeover to the province, [which] has slightly different regulations and goals," said Doug Daugert, mayor of Port Clements on Haida Gwaii.

He said residents feel extremely vulnerable because of the lack of medical resources and are scared the problem could get out of hand quickly if it's not managed properly. 

After ordering anyone visiting Prince Rupert to self-isolate for 14 days, Mayor Lee Brain expressed his disappointment with the province's decision in a statement on Facebook. He said he was doing what he believed was right based on the sound medical advice of medical officials on the ground.  

"Only history will judge who made the right decisions here or not," said Brain.

Preparedness in the north

During the province's COVID-19 briefing on Friday it was revealed the most populated areas of the province are better equipped for a bigger outbreak, with Northern Health seeing the lowest amount of ventilators.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said there are at least 1,272 ventilators in B.C.

The Ministry of Health said in a statement it's actively procuring more ventilators for the province.

There are 12 cases of COVID-19 in the Northern Health region so far.

Dr. David Bowering says while the province is doing an overall good job of responding to COVID-19, he'd like to see more information and control given over to local health authorities. He would also like to see work camps shut down to stop the spread. Dr. Bowering speaks with Carolina de Ryk. 17:58

With files from Nicole Oud, Rhianna Schmunk, Justin McElroy

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