Dr. Rebecca Janssen. (Submitted photo)

Dr. Rebecca Janssen. (Submitted photo)

Letter: Assume COVID is in your community; Act accordingly

Chief of Staff at St. John Hospital writes letter to residents of the Omineca region

Dear Residents of the Omineca Region,

I wanted to address recent information that has circulated on the Internet/Facebook last week regarding COVID in our area. This information was shared by patients themselves, as well as others in the communities of Fort St James and Vanderhoof. I’m sure there are many people wondering why this information is not coming directly from Northern Health.

As you may be aware, British Columbia’s public health services made the decision at the beginning of this pandemic not to share information about COVID in specific communities, but rather by Health Authority. This decision was reached because of fears that communities and individual patients would experience negative fallout and ostracization if this information was shared. What’s more, individual patients with COVID are still entitled to the same confidentiality as all patients in Canada. We have seen in other communities that when this confidentiality was breached, the COVID patients did suffer many negative consequences.

I can appreciate how frustrating it is to only be given limited information from your Health Authority about the exact location of COVID outbreaks locally. I’m sorry for that frustration. However, new cases in BC and in Northern Health are rising. We are seeing the second wave.

Assume COVID is in your community. Act accordingly. Dr Bonnie Henry has asked us to once again limit our social circle to 6 people. Wear masks to protect others if you have to go out in public. Look after your neighbours and vulnerable people by helping them to access the things that they need while avoiding crowds.

I can share with you that we have been very fortunate in the Omineca Region so far. Our facilities have had months to prepare, plan and modify how we deliver care, in order to make health services as safe as possible. Our hospital staff are well trained and well versed in our COVID protocols. I believe that we are ready for whatever comes our way.

I can appreciate how tired everyone is of hearing about COVID. But we are also entering a critical window where it is more important than even to make safe choices and be responsible members of our community. Please listen to Public Health officials. Remember that Facebook is not a reputable news source. Be assured that we are ready for COVID locally in our health facilities. “Be calm, be kind, be safe”

By Dr Rebecca Janssen, MD CCFP

Chief of Staff

St John Hospital