'They were there for us': Public asked to sacrifice to support B.C.'s tired health-care workers
VANCOUVER -- As the number of people battling COVID-19 in B.C. hospitals continues to grow at an alarming rate, officials are urging the public to support exhausted health-care workers by staying on their best behaviour.
Following all existing COVID-19 restrictions is the best way to ease the "immense" and growing pressure on doctors, nurses and others in the health-care system, Dr. Bonnie Henry said Thursday.
"Last year, many people stood at their doors and windows clapping and cheering for our frontline health-care workers. We knew they were there for us and we wanted to show our appreciation," Henry said.
"They are still there for us and have been for the last 15 months – so let's take care of the people who are taking care of us."
Officials revealed that the current strain on hospitals is already expected to force roughly 1,750 non-emergency surgeries to be postponed over the next two weeks. Modelling data shows the number of people ages 40-59 requiring hospitalization has been increasing along with the rapid spread of COVID-19 variants of concern.
Earlier this week, a nurse from B.C.'s Fraser Valley became the face of the province's overworked health-care professionals after sharing an emotional Instagram post about a failed effort to save a COVID-19 patient's life.
Kendall Skuta described a frenzied scene of workers rushing into PPE to help a man under the age of 60 who went into cardiac arrest. They took turns "pounding on the patient's chest," Skuta wrote, performing CPR for 35 minutes in an ultimately failed attempt to keep him alive.
"After his death was pronounced, we all stood there for a minute. Silent. Exhausted. Heartbroken. Lumps formed in our throats, tears filled our eyes. We looked at each other, trying to find the words — any words. There wasn't a thing anybody could say," she said.
"Please, I’m begging you all. Stay home, wear a mask, and get vaccinated if you’re eligible. We are all exhausted, and I don’t know how much more pain my heart can take."
The provincial health officer framed the request as a "shared sacrifice" that will keep the COVID-19 caseload under control as the government continues with its immunization rollout.
The means avoiding indoor gatherings, which are currently illegal in B.C., and postponing recreational travel, which will be the subject of a new restriction being introduced on Friday.
The pending public health order only limits the public's ability to move between health authority regions, something officials have stressed is important as case counts remain high.
"We have asked for these additional actions because we know that right now, with the transmission rates we are having, travel will spread the virus further. Staying in our local communities, we are not going to and from COVID hot spots and inadvertently bringing the virus with us," Henry said.
Outdoor gatherings are still allowed under B.C.'s current public health orders, though officials have stressed that they aren't without risk, and that people should only see the same small number of people consistently and keep their distance while doing so.
B.C. has repeatedly broken records for the number of COVID-19 patients battling the disease in hospitals and intensive care units in recent days. That includes on Thursday, when the province topped 500 hospitalizations for the first time in the pandemic.
The spike in hospitalizations has forced some B.C. health authorities to start using surge capacity to care for COVID patients, which requires them to divert staff from other roles. This has already resulted in dozens of non-emergency surgeries being delayed, and Health Minister Adrian Dix revealed Thursday that hundreds more are being postponed.
"Next week, nine hospitals across the Lower Mainland will move to urgent and emergent surgeries only," Dix said. "This is to ensure that they have the critical care staff available to care for patients. We expect that this action will be required for a minimum of two weeks."
Despite the influx in COVID-19 hospitalizations, British Columbians who require medical care can and should still seek it out, the minister added.
The impacted hospitals include Vancouver General Hospital, UBC Hospital, St. Paul's Hospital, Richmond General Hospital, Lions Gate Hospital, Surrey Memorial Hospital, Royal Columbian Hospital, Burnaby General Hospital and Abbotsford Regional Hospital.