January 20, 2022
BC Rural Health Network PO Box 257
Princeton, BC VOX 1W0
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Dear Mr. Adams,
Thank you for your letter dated January 20, 2022 and for your advocacy on behalf of the BC Rural Health Network.
As you are aware, COVID-19 and the Omicron wave have significantly increased staffing pressures across Interior Health. To protect the safety of patients and clients and to keep essential health services open, swift action was necessary. All of the changes made this week are designed to prioritize access to emergency and urgent care, and we are committed to returning to regular operations as quickly as possible.
I can assure you that service reductions are in place region-wide: all non-urgent surgeries are being postponed, along with reductions in outpatient clinics and adult day programs. That said, I’m pleased to say that since Tuesday, we have already been able to clarify and reduce some of the impacts announced for our rural sites. Working with our teams and in communication with local leaders, we have not proceeded with the plans to close inpatient services in Invermere. We have also clarified that primary care physician services and access to laboratory services is continuing at the Barriere Health Centre, along with the COVID-19 testing and immunization clinics.
In each of the rural communities where there are site-specific impacts, we have connected with the local elected leaders and will be reassessing the situation together regularly. I know this is a critical component to maintaining confidence in our health system.
Due to the high rates of COVID-19 transmission happening right now, Interior Health is currently receiving hundreds of short notice sick calls every day. Taking yesterday as an example, 30 per cent of almost 800 sick calls were related to COVID-19. This is a significant increase on the volume of absences we normally see and is one of the key metrics and factors in these decisions.
You asked whether staff are being redeployed from rural communities to urban areas; in many cases, these temporary changes are focused on stabilizing services within the local area. For example, reducing overnight emergency department hours at the Slocan Community Health Centre in New Denver will stabilize daytime access at the site. Similarly,
We recognize and acknowledge that we are collectively gathered on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territories of the seven Interior Region First Nations, where we live, learn, collaborate, and work together. This region is also home to 15 Chartered Metis Communities. It is with humility that we continue to strengthen our relationships with First Nation, Metis, and Inuit peoples across the Interior.
INTERIOR HEALTH CORPORATE ADMINISTRATION | 505 DOYLE AVE, KELOWNA, BC V1Y 0C5
PHONE 250.469.7070 ext. 12807 EMAIL Susan.BrownCEO@interiorhealth.ca