FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. -- “A good portion of them will die on a ventilator alone in a place that isn't their home with no visitation. When you say it like that, it's absolutely horrible,” says Dr. Simon Rose, UHNBC ICU physician.

An intensive care unit doctor says things are getting desperate.

Dr. Simon Rose says the Northern Health system is on the verge of collapse.

The ICU at the University Hospital of Northern B.C. is being overrun and Dr. Rose says the devastating fact is it's preventable. The majority of patients he sees and the majority who die, are unvaccinated.

"It's very frustrating to know that we are getting preventable, critically ill patients. There just isn't anything like this, to know that the majority of our current plight is preventable,” says Dr. Rose.

As COVID-19 cases continue to soar in Northern Health, hospitals across the Peace Region are transferring patients on a daily basis to Prince George. The ICU in Fort St. John has been closed since June of 2020, due to chronic staffing shortages. As the situation deteriorates, hospitals in Dawson Creek, Chetwynd and Tumbler Ridge all have experienced intermittent diversions of their emergency rooms.

"I think it's reasonable to say that 75% of the COVID patients are from the Northeast Region,” says Dr. Rose.

The ICU in Prince George is only designed for 10 patients. Doctors say it's called intensive care for a reason. With the unit having 15 patients alone who have COVID, there's no room to treat other patients who are seriously injured or have suffered a heart attack.

"You have to be able to see them, to see when something's changing or deteriorating," says Dr. Alasdair Nazerali-Maitland, Northern Health ICU physician.

Between August, 23rd and September, 8th, just COVID-19 admissions to the ICU at UHNBC have increased by 500%. They are younger patients, who are getting sicker and need to be intubated faster.

So people are being treated in hallways and they are being treated by less staff.

“We hardly have enough nurses for two in the ER and it’s two per shift. So that's dire,” says Danette Thomsen, BCNU North East Region Council Member.

While the majority of patients coming to Prince George are from the Dawson Creek and Fort St. John area. The South and North Peace Regions have some of the lowest vaccination rates in the entire province.

Under 60% of people have received their first shot, that's far behind the rest of the province at 85%.

“If you were to say to me, ‘the rest of your career is going to be caring for people that don't value societal and personal mandates,’ I couldn't do it,” says Dr. Rose.

Recent protests in Fort St. John and Dawson Creek took place outside healthcare facilities.

Not only do doctors and nurses say they felt disrespected and insulted, they say they are now afraid to be recognized as healthcare workers.

“I'd hate to ever think that some of our staff couldn't go home in a new clean set of scrubs for fear that they would be identified as medical professionals, and accosted anywhere,” says Dr. Nazerali-Maitland.

“I just want people to get the accurate information, go get the information about the vaccine, not off of facebook. This is not a political issue. this is about your health and the care of you and your families,” says Thompsen

At the beginning of the pandemic, British Columbia residents would bang pots and pans everyday at 7 p.m. to honour their healthcare heroes.

Now, some of those heroes are quitting because they're tired, disenfranchised and afraid.

“The first portion of this is that they feel physical and mental burnout. Then what happens beyond there, it's attrition, people lose weight. they bring their problems home, maybe their marriages and lives fall apart,” says Dr. Nazerali-Maitland.