Vernon Jubilee Hospital. (File photo)

COVID crisis puts strain on Vernon hospital: physician

Record number of patients with virus filling beds and ICU, non-emergent surgeries on hold

Patients suffering from COVID-19 are straining resources as beds and the ICU are overflowing at Vernon Jubilee Hospital.

There were 32 COVID-positive patients, with nine in the intensive care unit, putting the hospital at 30 per cent over capacity as of Friday, Sept. 10, according to the chief of staff updates said a physician familiar with the situation.

“This has got to be one of the most serious crises our hospital has been in, at least for a long time,” said the doctor, whose name is withheld to protect them from potential implications.

He said it was weighing on his conscious and he needed the public to know what was going on after the number of COVID patients spiked at 31 a couple of weeks ago.

“I think that’s the highest point we’ve ever had, previously we maybe topped out at seven or eight.”

And the situation has continued to weigh on VJH, increasing in some ways.

“The hospital’s been under considerable strain,” said the doctor, as many physicians on the ground are having to work busier and significantly longer days.

At baseline, VJH only has 10 ICU beds, therefore COVID patients are taking up all but one. The doctor said a few post-anaesthetic rooms have been converted into temporary ICU rooms and VJH continues to look at more options.

“They are planning to convert one of the operating rooms into two more ICUs because they need the ventilators.”

Non-emergent surgeries have also been put on hold, the doctor said.

These are peak protocols put in place, which the Vernon physician never imagined, even after the second wave strained VJH.

“I didn’t think we’d be here at this stage: a fourth wave that’s overwhelming our hospital.”

It’s different from previous waves as this time, patients have primarily been those between the ages of 30 and 50.

“We’re seeing more middle-aged and younger adults because they have lower vaccination rates,” the physician said.

The high rate of infection in the health region is also causing breakthrough infections in those already vaccinated, particularly in care homes where the elderly are more prone to infections.

“There is this concern about the vaccine efficacy decreasing over time,” said the doctor, pointing to some other countries that are already pushing booster shots. “But the efficacy of preventing serious illness in the delta variant is still pretty good.”

READ MORE: B.C. to offer third COVID-19 vaccine doses to severely immuncompromised people

Those presenting themselves at the hospital most commonly have a respiratory issue — shortness of breath and/or cough — often accompanied by weakness. Their stay ranges from a few days to weeks and even months.

COVID pneumonia and blood clots are a common complication of the virus, the doctor said.

In fact, the physician said the risk of getting blood clots from COVID-19 is “way higher” than getting clots from the vaccine.

“I think it’s like 15 times higher.”

The physician urges people to continue to be prudent by practising social distancing and following public health orders. But most of all, “get your vaccination, if you’re eligible.”

Interior Health has yet to respond to Black Press’ request for comment.

READ MORE: All health care workers in B.C. must be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 25: Henry


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