Two more people who picked up COVID-19 at a Kelowna long-term care home have died.
Interior Health reported Wednesday that the death toll related to the COVID-19 outbreak at Cottonwoods Care Centre in Kelowna rose to 17 . Since the outbreak was reported in early August, there have been 70 cases among 55 residents and 15 staff. It’s been the most long-standing outbreak in the Okanagan, to date, though it’s not the only one.
Village by the Station long-term care in Penticton has 41 cases among 27 residents and 14 staff, with three deaths connected to the outbreak. Also, Haven Hill Care Centre long-term care in Penticton has 12 cases among10 residents and two staff and one death connected to the outbreak.
Expected to help the outbreak situation in long term care and all health facilities is mandated vaccinations, which came into effect this week, reducing staff levels across the board.
Long-term care and assisted living employees who were not vaccinated as of Oct. 12 were put on two weeks unpaid leave. If they didn’t get their vaccine by Oct. 26, they were terminated.
Also this week were vaccine mandates for all other health care workers, which has now seven per cent fewer people working in health care throughout the Southern Interior.
The COVID-19 vaccination requirement for B.C. health-care workers, excluding long-term care and assisted living employees, kicked in this week, meaning thousands who chose not to vaccinate had to leave their jobs.
Health Minister Adrian Dix said in a Tuesday press conference that across the province there are 126,343 health-care workers and of them, 119,627 are fully vaccinated and another 2,626 are partially vaccinated. Only 4,090 have chosen to not get vaccinated at all.
The highest proportion of these workers reside within Interior Health, which had 1,369 or seven per cent of employees who were unvaccinated as of Tuesday’s deadline. Other health authorities had between two and five per cent of their workforce go on leave with the policy shift.
This is happening at a time when Interior Health is facing the “extraordinary challenge” of being at 100 per cent of its “base bed capacity” within hospitals.
“Obviously, health authorities are taking steps to, across B.C., to deal with the challenges presented by this,” Dix said of the employee shortfall.
Efforts are underway to transfer some health-care workers to Interior Health and to hire new employees, he said.
Dix said, however, the reduction in staffing will challenge the delivery of some medical services, particularly diagnostic imaging and lab work, and some surgical procedures, though, to date, IH has not had to reschedule surgeries.
“This was, as I say, a necessary step and an important one. We’re also solemn today because we know the implications for people. And we know why this is a necessary step to protect people in our health-care system.”
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