The Elk Valley Hospital is adapting to meet the needs of patients in the Elk Valley. File Photo

The Elk Valley Hospital is adapting to meet the needs of patients in the Elk Valley. File Photo

Healthcare in valley affected by pandemic

A review of pandemic related changes in clinics and hospitals throughout the valley

While the COVID-19 situation rapidly progresses, the Elk Valley’s healthcare system has made coinciding changes.

In terms of emergency services, the Sparwood Health Centre and the Elk Valley Hospital maintain ongoing operations, while the Elkford Health Centre’s emergency department remains closed due to staffing issues.

According to Terri Domin, executive director of clinical operations for the East Kootenay, Interior Health recognizes the concerns arising from the closure of Elkford’s emergency department. However, they assure residents that the Sparwood Health Centre has easily managed to support the needs of Elkford’s residents.

Elkford locals are reminded that physicians continue to see patients in their clinic at the health centre during regular business hours. Though walk ins are currently discouraged, some same day appointments are still available. Physicians in the Elk Valley have also switched to providing various appointments electronically when appropriate, as patients are often able to receive suitable virtual guidance and care.

According to an update released on April 7 from the Elk Valley Hospital physicians, all scheduled and non urgent surgeries have been postponed. Even so, essential services such as prenatal visits are still being carried out, and urgent surgeries continue to be provided within the East Kootenay. Outpatient x-ray and laboratory services are also available for time sensitive and urgent tests, such as x-rays to rule out fractures, or blood draws for medication monitoring. The Elkford Medical Clinic, lab, and x-ray services remain open.

“We appreciate the ongoing commitment of physicians in the Elk Valley and across the East Kootenay during this challenging time. We also want to acknowledge the patience and understanding of people in the area and thank them for following the ongoing public health recommendations related to COVID-19,” said Domin.

Elk Valley physicians urge patients to keep seeking medical care when needed, regardless of the type of concern, and not to hesitate going to the emergency room if injuries are present or immediate care is required. Anyone who does have a true emergency is still advised to call 911, and the provincial 811 service is also available to offer guidance to patients who are uncertain about their care needs. Patients attending hospitals should, however, expect screenings upon entry regarding travel history and COVID-19 related symptoms, as well as a reduction in the number of visitors allowed. Those who do require in person care are advised to call ahead so precautions can be taken, especially if respiratory symptoms are present.

In the release, Elk Valley physicians also wish to remind the public that though COVID-19 is in our community, medical staff are well prepared and emergency rooms are well staffed. In an effort to minimize the spread of the virus, anyone who has travelled out of the province or country, to other cities, those in close contact with a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19, or anyone exhibiting respiratory symptoms are to self isolate for 14 days. Respiratory symptoms include shortness of breath, sore throat, runny nose and coughs, and other related symptoms involve muscle aches, headaches, fatigue, and fevers.

For advice on managing symptoms, residents are asked to call the HealthLink nurses 24/7 hotline at 811, or to speak to an Elk Valley public health nurse at 250-425-3777 on weekdays between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., and weekends from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m.

Fernie’s Options for Sexual Health Clinic has also made various changes to their operations. Due to the recognition of sexual health being a necessary service, the clinic is still operating, however is only offering essential services, telephone assessments and telemedicine. Access to contraceptives, symptomatic STI treatment, pregnancy testing, and urgent STI testing based on clinical judgement are all considered essential. Currently, other general health services such as pap tests will not be provided.

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