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COVID-19: Kelowna General Hospital over capacity as case numbers continue to rise

Click to play video: 'KGH overwhelmed with surge in Omicron' KGH overwhelmed with surge in Omicron
WATCH: Kelowna General Hospital is struggling with a surge in Omicron cases and many of their staff falling sick with the virus. Yasmin Gandham tells us more about how the hospital is overcapacity even though the Interior Health Authority hasn't reached its peak yet – Feb 4, 2022

As COVID-19 case numbers continue to rise, Kelowna General Hospital is overwhelmed these days, hitting overcapacity with many staff falling ill with the virus.

Dr. Jeff Eppler works in the emergency department at Kelowna General Hospital and says what they are seeing with Omicron is different from any other strain of COVID-19.

“It’s actually, despite being a less aggressive virus, it is so infectious that we are seeing huge numbers right now. Also, a lot of staff are sick with COVID, something we didn’t see in previous waves,” Eppler said.

Local health officials say despite the high COVID case counts and hospitalizations, the Interior still hasn’t hit its peak.

Read more: Latest Kelowna General Hospital outbreak grows to 13 patients

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“We know we are a little bit behind the Lower Mainland where Omicron really started, so we are expecting to be lagging behind them and they believe they’ve seen their peak,” explained Interior Health CEO Susan Brown.

Still, health-care workers are strained, with hospitals over capacity. Dr. Eppler says with many workers catching COVID, the system is incredibly backed up.

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“I have never seen morale this low, as it is right now in emergency because we are so overwhelmed between the admitted patients,” Eppler said.

“Because there are so many patients in hospitals in COVID, patients that need to be admitted, they don’t go up to the ward so it backs everything up.”

The backup is causing surgeries to be cancelled, with too many patients and not enough staff.

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Read more: Health-care cuts temporary but necessary: Interior Health Authority CEO

“That drove us to reduce some of our services across the Interior and particularly in the Kelowna area. We have reduced our surgical slates which has involved reducing non-urgent elective surgeries, which are medically necessary, so it was a difficult decision to make,” added Brown.

According to Brown, Kelowna General Hospital is sitting at 115-per cent occupancy. Dr. Eppler says people who are unvaccinated are largely putting a strain on hospital resources.

“Even though there are vaccinated people in the hospital right now, the numbers are much larger than they need to be because of the number of people who refuse to believe in the vaccine that believe it’s unsafe,” Brown said.

“It’s very safe and it’s very effective.”

With the peak not quite here yet, Interior Health is concerned with what is to come. Dr. Eppler says front-line workers are incredibly burned out.

“Nurses, front-line workers, all the people working in the hospital — I think we are pretty maxed out,” Eppler said.

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