"Chaos" Doctors and Nurses say Northern Health system on the verge of collapse
FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. -- As the fourth wave of COVID-19 continues, Intensive Care Unit doctors and nurses are sounding the alarm. They're saying the health care system in northern B.C. is in trouble.
“It's horrifying, I am actually scared for the population,” says Danette Thomsen, BCNU North East region council member.
As COVID cases skyrocket in the Northern Health Region, hospitals can’t keep up with the influx of patients.
“It's definitely close to collapse,” says Dr. Simon Rose, UHNBC ICU physician.
In Prince George the intensive care unit has 10 beds, but at this moment they have 15 COVID-19 patients alone. With no idea where to put other patients who are seriously injured or have suffered a heart attack.
So, they're being forced to put patients in hallways instead.
“The ICU is bursting at the seams. Their nurses refer to it as a warzone. Groundhog day, here we go again, we cannot sustain this,” says Thomsen.
The staffing shortage that has plagued Northern Health is only getting worse.
Staff are feeling overwhelmed and many are leaving due to mental health issues. They are watching people die from COVID daily, knowing it could have been prevented.
“We lost a great number of nurses out of the ICU and wave three, we have a whole brand new group of nurses that just graduated from that program in June. And if we don't take care of them, they will be leaving with mental health issues within the month too,” says Thomsen.
“I'd like to take you into the hospital staff room and show you some of my colleagues that are in tears, that are distraught,” says Dr. Rose.
Making matters worse, healthcare workers say Northern Health hasn't learned the lessons from the first 3 waves of COVID.
A survey of Northern Health physicians said only 17% of doctors felt their senior leaders made transparent medical decisions. The lowest of all the health authorities in B.C.
"The second wave was extremely tough for our team, starting earlier and going later than all the other health authorities. We would have just hoped that more might have been done in between waves to get our team and group a plan" says Dr. Alasdair Nazerali-Maitland, Northern Health ICU physician.
While healthcare workers say the system is unsustainable as covid cases continue to climb. Hospitals in Fort St. John and Dawson Creek can't keep up, so patients are being transferred to Prince George.
They say all of this could be prevented if people in northern B.C. start getting vaccinated and treating COVID as a life or death situation.
“My biggest fear is that I'm caught up looking after patients years and years after that, and my family doesn't recognize me, my son doesn't get excited when I come home anymore. and you risk your own physical health and well being for a system that may not recognize those efforts,” says Dr. Nazerali-Maitland.