The Elk Valley Hospital. (File photo)

The Elk Valley Hospital. (File photo)

Sad and frustrated: New health orders clamp down on Christmas

Dr. Tara Chalmers-Nixon of the Elk Valley Hospital MSA said they were still waiting to learn what the orders meant for surgery at the local hospital

New COVID-19 restrictions introduced on Dec. 21 – only four sleeps before Christmas – are landing the same way among health professionals as they are in the rest of the public.

“The medical profession feels the same way the public feels,” said Dr. Tara Chalmers-Nixon of the Elk Valley Hospital Medical Staff Association.

“We’re sad (and) we’re frustrated.

“There’s a little bit of exasperation that we’re going through this again,” she said, explaining that more people needed to be vaccinated in order to prevent the spead of COVID-19, and the rise of more variants.

The latest variant – omicron – has spread across Canada rapidly, and according to the BC CDC, 756 cases of omicron have been detected in British Columbia so far. Omicron can transmit between people faster than previous variants. There have only been eight recorded cases of the omicron variant in Interior Health.

In total, there are 6,348 active COVID-19 cases in the province as of Dec. 21.

The new orders announced by B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry close bars, gyms, nightclubs, fitness centres and dance studios, while limiting restaurant seating to six per table, and reduce capacity at seated events such as concerns, movies and sports to 50 percent and ban indoor organised events (like weddings and New Years Eve parties) entirely.

For Chalmers-Nixon, questions were around local hospitals and their ability to continue operating.

“In March 2020 they shut down our operating rooms and cancelled everything, even in our small sites – endoscopies and surgeries were cancelled.

“They say they’re going to cancel surgeries in January and it was a bit of a surprise to all of our operations in the province,” she said.

“I’m waiting to hear from our local director of operations what that means for Fernie. Does that mean we have to cancel elective surgeries does this mean we have to cancel endoscopy days, … and what kind of effect will this have on business as usual?”

Chalmers-Nixon said there were a lot of people waiting for elective surgeries.

“‘Elective’ doesn’t mean that they’re not necessary. It could be a whole range of things that people have been waiting for months, sometimes longer to get.”

The Elk Valley Hospital in Fernie has the capacity and scope for various surgeries such as endoscopy, gastroscopy, orthopedic surgery, general surgery and more – all things many have been waiting for, and continue to wait for.

“We’re waiting to hear what (the new orders) mean.”

On the restrictions beyond hospitals, Chalmers-Nixon said she was grateful that the new orders weren’t hemming people in as much as they were in Christmas 2020.

“Was grateful to see we can still have our small Christmas dinner with one other household or your closest friends. They said no new restrictions for travel within or between provinces, and I think that’s important.”

With booster shots being rolled out, and numbers of COVID-19 cases rising in British Columbia (triggering the new orders), Chalmers-Nixon said that while British Columbians had been able to enjoy a relatively COVID-free summer, “right now we need to manage out expectations (and accept that) life is going to be different for a while.”

“We have a tremendous number of vulnerable people, and we don’t know what that will translate into (in hospitalizations) with omicron.”

While positive cases of COVID-19 within the Elk Valley are relatively low as of the most recent reporting period (8 between Dec. 5 and 11), Chalmers-Nixon said that the community was remaining vigilant.

“The local testing centre is full. They’re testing 50 people a day at the Sparwood testing centre … not including anyone coming through emergency that gets tested at the hospital.”

The most recent data shows that the positivity rate in the Elk Valley (of those tested) is four per cent.

Heading into the holiday period, Chalmers-Nixon said everyone needed to buckle down to keep each other safe, and keep on wearing masks, ensuring social distancing and washing of hands regularly.

“We all have our public health duties. There’s lots of things we can all do to at least slow the speed of the spread.”

READ MORE: B.C. closes gyms and bars, bans indoor organized events over holidays as Omicron surges
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