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High COVID-19 case count in B.C. hospital forcing some elective surgeries to be rescheduled

Vancouver -

A B.C. hospital managing a high number of COVID-19 cases has rescheduled some elective surgeries as a result.

In a statement, Interior Health told CTV News Vancouver Kelowna General Hospital has a "higher number of COVID-19 patients" because of the ongoing outbreak in the Central Okanagan.

"Some elective surgeries have been rescheduled to manage capacity at the hospital. Affected patients are being notified directly to reschedule their procedure," Interior Health's statement said.

"The majority of people in hospital with COVID-19 are young adults who are not fully immunized."

One surgical oncologist posted to Twitter Monday that the hospital "is swamped with COVID patients," forcing the cancellation of a patient's surgery for treatment of pancreatic cancer.

"I feel awful for my patient whose whipple tomorrow is cancelled for lack of beds as well as the other patients adversely affected," Gareth Eeson wrote.

When asked by CTV News, B.C.'s top doctor did not address an influx of patients in Kelowna, saying only that there have been "a number of health-care workers" impacted by COVID-19.

Dr. Bonnie Henry said the workers' illnesses are among the reasons why some surgeries have been cancelled.

Early in the pandemic, in March 2020, B.C. postponed elective surgeries because of the coronavirus. As the province moved towards its restart plan later in the spring, elective surgeries were one of the first things to be reintroduced, and appointments were scheduled again in mid-May.

But then in April of this year, some elective surgeries were impacted again as a handful of nurses were reassigned to COVID-19 care during the province's third wave in the pandemic. 

Surgical capacity increased again in late May and early June.  

The Central Okanagan is dealing with a surge in COVID-19 cases and, in recent weeks, has regularly recorded more than half of the new positive tests announced daily in B.C. That spike led officials to re-introduce a number of tough COVID-19 restrictions in the Central Okanagan including closing bars and nightclubs and limiting gathering sizes. 

Those rules only apply in the Central Okanagan local health area, where an outbreak was declared last month, prompting officials to bring back a mask mandate for all indoor public spaces. That mandate remains in place and is enforceable.

When she announced the restrictions, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said most of the new infections are among people who are not fully vaccinated.

She also said that about 80 per cent of the cases in the region are the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus, and said that most of those testing positive are between the ages of 20 and 40.

In its statement, Interior Health confirmed most of the people in hospital "are young adults who are not fully immunized."

However, that age cohort were the last to be offered COVID-19 vaccines in B.C.

“Everyone is encouraged to get immunized against COVID-19 to protect themselves, their community, and the health-care system," Interior Health's statement said.

With files from CTV News Vancouver's Bhinder Sajan and Penny Daflos Top Stories

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