Residents of Nelson Jubilee Manor seniors care home would be evacuated by Interior Health in a wildfire if an evacuation alert occurred anywhere within 20 kilometres of the facility.
An evacuation alert warns people to get ready to move, as opposed to an evacuation order which requires it.
“Since our residents often require more complex logistical co-ordination, we proactively relocate people after the evacuation alert is issued, as a precautionary measure,” said Interior Health (IH) spokesperson Karl Hardt in an email to the Nelson Star.
But this does not apply to hospitals.
Kootenay Lake Hospital would not be evacuated in response to an alert, but only if there was a local evacuation order.
The only exception would be extremely vulnerable patients whose relocation would be complex or time-consuming, who might be evacuated sooner.
Mountain Lake Seniors Community, which is privately owned, has its own emergency response plan with which IH is only marginally involved, Hardt said. Park Place Seniors Living, the owner of Mountain Lake, has not returned the Nelson Star’s requests to inform us of its evacuation plans or policies.
Kootenay Lake Hospital and Jubilee Manor have evacuation plans, Hardt said, and if there is a wildfire in the area, IH would set up an incident command centre to co-ordinate the evacuation.
“No incident command is currently active in the Kootenay Boundary right now, but we are ready to establish those immediately when needed,” he said.
The command centre would work closely with local governments, local fire departments, and BC Wildfire Service.
Evacuation orders and alerts are issued by the Regional District of Central Kootenay in conjunction with BC Wildfire Service.
Where would patients and clients go?
Hardt said IH would move people a minimum of 20 km away from a fire.
“We try to relocate people as close to their home sites as possible, but in some cases we may need to look to other regions based on capacity and the local wildfire activity,” he said, adding that staff are redeployed to the other locations along with their patients or clients.
He said IH would assist home care clients, such as those on home dialysis or mental health clients, to relocate.
Acute care patients would be moved to another hospital, most likely Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital in Trail.
Examples of facilities that have been evacuated this summer within IH region include Eagle Valley Manor assisted living in Sicamous, Mountainview Lodge care home in Lillooet, Talarico Place in Castlegar and Castleview Care Centre in Castlegar.
Hardt said the residents of the two Castlegar facilities were moved in response to the Merry Creek wildfire to a mix of alternate care homes, family homes, churches, and the Castlegar Community Complex.
Families have the option to temporarily move their family member home as well, Hardt said.
How would patients be moved?
Transfers would be done by a combination of services including BC Transit, buses owned by the facility, private vehicles, and ambulances, Hardt said.
Len MacCharles, head of the City of Nelson’s Emergency Operations Centre, says it is the responsibility of hospitals and care homes to create and carry out an evacuation plan for their residents.
He told the Nelson Star that his office will work with those facilities during an evacuation, but his resources will be stretched and he relies on them to have their own plans and resources in place.