The fourth wave of the pandemic has hit Vanderhoof hard, and officials are urging residents to get vaccinated for COVID-19 as the local hospital and healthcare staff are being overwhelmed with high case numbers.
According to BC CDC, between Sept. 24 and 30 there were 103 cases in the Nechako Health region which includes Vanderhoof, Fort St. James, Fraser Lake and surrounding First Nation communities.
“The system can’t keep going like this forever,” said Rebecca Janssen, chief of staff for St. John Hospital in Vanderhoof.
“It is distressing to think that an ICU bed won’t be available if someone needs it. My understanding from colleagues in Alberta is that they are currently making decisions about who does and does not get an ICU bed. Northern Health is currently sending patients to Vancouver. And it’s not just COVID patients who sometimes need ICU. Any one of us could be in a car crash or have an illness requiring ICU,” she added.
St. John Hospital is at full capacity. They have COVID patients at the Vanderhoof hospital and are only sending critically ill patients for higher care to Prince George.
“Prince George is so full that they only accept the sickest of the sick,” Janssen said.
“We have a hard time getting people who are less sick there, and I have had several patients refused in the past month who might have been accepted in Prince George for care in different times as I have seen that happen before. But they basically said no, there isn’t a bed for the person. Thankfully everyone did fine. But when you start to see this, it’s scary. I wouldn’t appreciate being that patient not going to the higher centre of care when I am that sick,” she added.
With anti-vaccination protests being held in Vanderhoof on the bridge, Janssen said its been difficult for healthcare workers.
“It is very demoralizing to be run off your feet all day long caring for sick COVID patients and then read signs saying “Stop Medical Tyranny”,” she said.
In response to a question around encouraging others to get the vaccine locally, Janssen said, “It is your body and your choice. But to healthcare workers, this is our version of a war. Consider how we might have viewed a previous generation if they said “my body, my choice” when asked to go fight in the early conflicts of the 20th century. Vaccination is safe and it is effective in keeping people out of hospital. Get your COVID vaccine. You are not being asked to go die on a beach in Normandy.”
For Mayor Gerry Thiessen, he said it is concerning when he sees the Nechako region averaging 10-12 cases per day. However, he said council would like to know from Northern Health and the province, the exact number of people in St. John Hospital with COVID-19 along with the number of residents that are requiring care at the University Hospital of Northern B.C.
He said local healthcare workers are going through a difficult time with protests being held against them and vaccine passports.
“We need to support science, our healthcare workers and make sure we are as caring, as much as we are.”
Thiessen said misinformation on social media has caused some people locally to not take the jab. People trust their doctors all the time with their kids and parents, he said.
“And we trust what they say explicitly with our life, knowing they care for us. Don’t trust a YouTube video, or what a post says on Facebook, rather if you have concerns, go talk to your doctor, share your anxiety and concerns and then please do what they suggest you to do.”
“The only way we won’t have more people getting sick and possibly dying is if we address this now as quickly as possible. You can only get your second shot four weeks after your first shot. The next two months are going to be really hard for Vanderhoof,” he added.
According to BC CDC data, as of Sept. 30 here are vaccination numbers as per age group for the Nechako Health region:
• 12+: 71 percent have received first dose, and 61 percent have received second dose
• 12 - 17: 51 percent have received first dose, and 37 percent have received second dose
• 18+: 73 percent have received first dose, and 63 percent have received second dose
• 18 - 49: 64 percent have received first dose, and 51 percent have received second dose
• 50+ : 80 percent have received first dose, and 75 percent have received second dose
Editor’s note: Protests have been held against vaccine passports locally on the bridge that connects the town to the hospital, not in front of the hospital, which has been corrected in the story after it was first published.