Dozens of coronavirus patients in intensive care from Northern Health have been transferred to Island Health, for further treatment.
Adrian Dix, the province’s Minister of Health, said during the question period of a press conference Tuesday that 26 unvaccinated COVID-19 patients were moved from intensive care units in Northern Health to Island Health, Fraser Health, and Vancouver Coastal over the past few weeks.
“It’s a long way. It’s hard on them, it’s hard on their family, it’s hard on the health care workers,” said Dix.
He also said an additional six patients in “other circumstances” were also moved out of Northern Health and that out of the 32 patients who were transferred, 22 were sent to ICUs on Vancouver Island.
“What it meant for all 32 was being flown by air ambulance from their home communities,” Dix explained. “There are, I believe, 22 of them who came to Vancouver Island, which is a long way from Vanderhoof and from Smithers and from Pouce Coupe and Dawson Creek and Fort St John and Prince George.”
None of the patients transferred had been vaccinated for COVID-19 and Dix notes that transfers have had an impact on surgeries across the province.
“It has an impact on surgeries, of course, everywhere, including on Vancouver Island,” he said.
From Sept. 26 to Oct. 2, 241 non-urgent surgeries were postponed across B.C. 157 of those were in Island Health.
Sidney’s Marcia Jones was booked for a last-minute surgery to repair a knee injury at the end of September only to have it cancelled a few days later.
“You’re nervous, you’re not sure how the surgery’s going to go, what about afterwards, what do I need to do, so you have all these motions going then they’re like nope no surgery,” Jones said.
Her knee injury has made it difficult to work yet she says she’s luckier than most.
“I have a friend that’s been diagnosed with cancer and her surgery got cancelled as well so where do we draw the line is my question?”
Sooke’s Rob Pearce also considers himself lucky. While he can get around, he was relying on his upcoming hip replacement to make his job as a letter courier less painful. It too has been postponed.
“I was really looking forward to it and then the rehab and just really getting back to somewhat normal ya know? So when they cancelled it, it was really deflating,” he said.
In Nanaimo, six of the nine COVID patients in ICU right now are from Northern Health, according to critical care physician Dr. David Forrest. While resources are being stretched thin, Forrest says they do have the capacity to help out.
“The reality is if the shoe was on the other foot they would help us out if they had the capacity and we were overwhelmed,” he said.
Forrest says none of the COVID patients currently in critical care in Nanaimo’s hospital are fully vaccinated. But instead of anger he’s calling for compassion.
“I feel devastated and heartbroken for them because many of them have made a decision not to be vaccinated for the wrong reasons, because they’ve had bad information,” he said.
According to the BCCDC’s dashboard, there are 40 people in the Island Health region in hospital due to the novel coronavirus, 23 of whom are in intensive care.
Dix did not provide specifics about whether the 22 patients shipped to Vancouver Island were all COVID-19 patients. It’s also unclear whether transferred patients are counted in Island Health’s current hospital hospitalization and ICU figures.
CHEK News has reached out to the ministry for clarification regarding both matters.