A West Kootenay doctor says the regional hospital in Trail is at risk of not having enough space to accommodate COVID-19 patients in intensive care units.
Dr. Mike Vance works at Trail’s Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital (KBRH), which has six ICU beds. Vance told the Nelson Star on Monday that four of those beds were currently being used by COVID-19 patients.
The danger, according to Vance, is that potential patients from the recent surge in regional cases have not yet started arriving at the hospital. Typically, COVID-19 patients who require oxygen only present themselves 10 to 14 days after they are first infected.
That means that those infected with COVID from the week of Aug. 1 to 7, which saw 74 new cases in Nelson, 30 in Castlegar, 11 in the Arrow Lakes area that includes Nakusp, 10 in Trail and four in Grand Forks, are only just beginning to feel symptoms that may lead to hospitalization.
“The next month right now is going to be a disaster,” said Vance. “If you can’t bend that curve back down, this is going to continue with some major growth.”
KBRH is the only hospital with an ICU and respiratory therapy in the Kootenay Boundary. Vance, who is working with admitted COVID-19 patients at the hospital who don’t require life support or ventilation, said the hospital is having to rearrange its ward to add more beds.
He is also concerned for people who don’t have COVID-19 but require a stay in the ICU for other medical reasons.
A person recovering from a heart attack, he said, may only need to be in the ICU for a few days. But COVID-19 patients are requiring longer stays on ventilators.
“They’re in there for weeks, especially now that we’re seeing these younger people. They’re going to rally and they’re going to fight for longer. There’s little chance for more patients in any capacity.”
Vance said there’s a possibility COVID-19 patients will be sent to a hospital outside the region, but warned hospitals in the Okanagan are already at capacity.
Last week Kelowna General Hospital announced it was postponing some elective surgeries to support high numbers of COVID-19 patients, the majority, Interior Health said, were young adults who aren’t fully vaccinated.
Interior Health meanwhile continues to lead the province in daily COVID-19 cases, the majority of which are in the Central Okanagan area which includes Kelowna.
This leaves few options for patients if the ICU at KBRH is full.
“What I really want people to know is that we have six ICU beds, and we can’t handle this many cases,” said Vance.
“If people can’t get vaccinated and start wearing masks and start socially distancing, locally it’s just going to be way too much for us. It’s going to overwhelm our hospital system pretty quick.”
Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.