Kelowna's hospital, already nearly full, may intermittently close beds due to staffing crunch after vaccine mandate

Mandate squeezes KGH

Beds may be intermittently closed at Kelowna General Hospital as health officials grapple with staffing shortages as a result of the healthcare worker vaccine mandate.

The mandate, which went into effect Tuesday, resulted in seven per cent of Interior Health’s workforce — 1,369 people — being pushed onto unpaid leave. Termination looms for them on Nov. 15 if they remain unvaccinated.

In a statement to Castanet Tuesday evening, the Ministry of Health said IH is “carefully reviewing” the impact of the vaccination order.

Where needed, Interior Health “will be implementing strategies to ensure people continue to receive the best care possible.”

“Plans are in place to adjust bed use and to ensure we continue to provide appropriate care to all patients. At times, hospital beds may need to be closed intermittently throughout the hospital to adjust for staffing pressures. These numbers will fluctuate based on staffing,” the Ministry of Health’s statement said.

As of Monday, Kelowna General Hospital had all 443 of its base hospital beds occupied and just 16 of its 68 surge-capacity beds vacant. KGH’s total occupancy rate for base and surge beds, which combine for a total capacity of 511 beds, is at 96.9%.

The Ministry of Health did not release statistics on ICU occupancy rates. There are 40 ICU beds in Kelowna, nine of which are set aside for post-surgery recovery.

Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Tuesday resources from other parts of the healthcare system will support Interior Health as they work through the fallout from the mandate.

“I want to say to everybody in the Interior, we will be there for you," Dix said.

Dix said Tuesday was a “significant and solemn day” in the healthcare sector, calling the mandate a “very strong action needed in a pandemic” to protect healthcare workers, patients and the public.

With a third of all unvaccinated healthcare workers in B.C. employed by Interior Health, the region will face the greatest challenge related to the worker mandate, the minister said.

Dr. Henry said the mandate is required to help prevent extraordinarily disruptive and dangerous COVID-19 outbreaks in hospitals.

with files from Madison Erhardt

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