A 3D microscope illustration of the COVID-19 coronavirus. The novel coronavirus was first identified in Wuhan, China and was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization on March 11, 2020. (File photo)

A 3D microscope illustration of the COVID-19 coronavirus. The novel coronavirus was first identified in Wuhan, China and was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization on March 11, 2020. (File photo)

Nechako Lakes MLA wants local doctors providing COVID-19 information

Misinformation, division and stressed health care system worry Rustad

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to test the capacity of B.C. hospitals and overworked staff amid rising cases and low vaccination rates, Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad wants to see information provided to his constituents from a credible source—local physicians.

Rustad said while the BC Government and Northern Health (NH) are doing their best, there is a flood of information coming out from social media, some of it accurate and some of it not.

“When you look across the province 96 per cent of doctors in B.C. are vaccinated. Why are they vaccinated? They have gotten vaccinated because they’re healthcare professionals, they’re trained in the field, they’ve looked at the evidence, they’ve weighed the issues and they have decided that being vaccinated is the best option and it’s the right option for them, and that’s the kind of information that they draw on for that conclusion that we need to get out to people.”

As of Wednesday, Sept. 22, NH estimated 76 per cent of people 12 and older across northern B.C. have received at least one dose and that 65 per cent are fully immunized with two doses.

Immunization coverage in some community health service areas for first dose remains below 60 per cent, including Vanderhoof Rural, Northern Boreal, Peace River North Rural and Peace River South Rural.

On Tuesday, Sept. 21, Health Minister Adrian Dix confirmed scheduled surgeries around the province continued to be postponed to deal with the influx of COVID-19 patients. Some of them were being transferred out of northern hospitals, he said.

Read More: B.C. transferring COVID-19 patients out of northern hospitals

Don Goalder recently expressed his frustration when his seriously injured spouse was moved from the Bulkley Valley District Hospital in Smithers to Kitmaat, where she has no family or support to make room for coronavirus patients.

“I think this is a very serious issue,” Rustad said.

“We’re at the moment, according to the information that Dix is providing, our hospitals are at capacity, and particularly for ICU patients, that’s a very serious issue should we have any other kinds of accidents or trauma or issues that people need to be diverted. So it’s creating a tremendous amount of stress on the health care system, on our health care workers and quite frankly, it’s creating a potential problem for all of us within our region.”

A COVID-19 outbreak was declared on the Primary Care Medical Unit at the University Hospital of Northern BC in Prince George on Sunday, Sept. 26, with nine patients and one staff member testing positive.

Rustad said hindsight is always 20/20, and looking back at the province’s restart plan last spring, everyone was hopeful their lives would be able to return to normal.

Read More: Small businesses face threats, backlash as vaccine passports take effect

This most recent wave has surprised many, however, Rustad questioned why contingency plans were not put in place.

“But besides that, now that we are into this, I think one of the other huge issues besides the overcapacity and issues within the health care system is eventually the mental health issue,” he said.

“We are seeing huge amounts of friction between people who are vaccinated and people who have chosen not to be vaccinated, and that friction is building…It’s creating huge tensions in our communities and it’s being taken out on health care workers, it’s being taken out on local officials. There’s the friction within families and communities; it’s an unhealthy situation beyond the real serious challenge we have with COVID.”

Speaking of the challenges faced by health care professionals who Rustad said do the best they can for everyone becomes emotional for him.

He said it breaks his heart to see doctors and nurses who have broken down in tears, devastated and worried they might not be able to provide the kind of health care they want.

“That’s just a terrible position for them to be in, and that’s why I say as a society, as people, we have a responsibility to each other to do what we can to be able to make sure that that system is there and available for us and that we don’t burn these people out,” Rustad added.

“They’re putting their heart and soul and time to helping all of us, and I hope we don’t get to the breaking point, and they give up. I hope we can as a society support them so that we don’t end up like that.”

In the Nechako Health region, vaccination rates for people over 18 is now at 79 percent for the first dose, and 61 percent for the second dose.

Read More: B.C. health authority issues alarm over nurse shortage in Fort St. John

(With files from Deb Meissner and Tom Fletcher)

COVID-19