Omicron challenging RIH; protecting hospital capacity is key, Fenton says

Variant puts pressure on RIH

Royal Inland Hospital is “under a lot of pressure,” with an already-stretched facility facing more challenges as the Omicron variant surges through Kamloops, according to a medical health officer with Interior Health.

Dr. Carol Fenton told Castanet Kamloops her understanding is that hospital staff are having a difficult time, making it all the more important for people in the region to do what they can to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“I know that our hospital is under a lot of pressure that is primarily related to capacity, and that's been an ongoing problem at least since I've been in Kamloops. And so any additional pressure from Omicron, for example, is really hard on the system,” Fenton said.

“I'm working really closely with my colleagues to make sure that we can discharge people in a reasonable timeframe to long-term care while at the same time protecting long-term care from any risks. So it's challenging for sure, and I don't envy my acute care colleagues.”

According to the BC CDC, there were 206 new cases of COVID-19 detected in Kamloops from Jan. 2 to 8, and 261 cases from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1.

However, Fenton said as PCR and rapid antigen tests are being conserved for heath care workers, essential workers and those most vulnerable to the virus, official case counts aren’t giving the full picture of the spread throughout the region.

Fenton said in the midst of this wave, what concerns her most is how quickly the virus has infected a large number of people.

"It’s more than anyone was anticipating,” Fenton said.

Like the Delta variant before it, Fenton said the Omicron variant has changed the game in terms of pandemic response.

“It's really, really hard, and it can be really discouraging that it's not over and where we're having to readjust and continue and double down,” she said.

“What concerns me is just the sheer number of infections, and although we do have a population who is vaccinated — highly vaccinated in Kamloops, which is amazing — and that should protect most people, it won't protect everybody. It's not 100 per cent. And so we need to make sure that hopefully, not everyone needs services at the same time.”

Fenton said it’s key for people do everything they can to keep infections down and protect hospital capacity.

She said at this point, people know what they need to do — limit social contacts, wear masks indoors while with other people, stay home if sick, and, most importantly, get vaccinated.

“We need to do everything we can to protect that capacity so that not only do we have the capacity to deal with the COVID cases that we will see, but that they also have capacity for the non-COVID health issues and emergencies that we all need the system for,” Fenton said.

“There are still really strong reasons that we need to do everything we can to limit the spread.”

Amidst the ongoing Omicron wave, Fenton said what gives her hope is the community response to the challenges brought on by the pandemic.

“We do have that really high vaccination uptake in Kamloops. We have communities in the area that are working on supporting each other, that have offered help in terms of deploying the rapid tests, how can we make sure everyone has masks that are working that are worn correctly,” she said.

“We know what to do. And as hard as it is, we need to keep doing it to protect each other.”

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