Kelowna General Hospital at 115% capacity, 15% staff calling in sick

Kelowna General Hospital. Global News

Kelowna General Hospital has been hit hard by Omicron, stretching its resources to the limit.

Susan Brown, Interior Health’s president, and CEO, said the hospital was running at 115 per cent of capacity as of Friday. That equates to more than 500 beds or roughly 68 beds more than the facility would normally have in operation.

The facility has 77 patients who are COVID-19 positive, however, few people are requiring intensive care.

“We’re seeing people still require hospitalization in some instances, but not those intensive resources that we saw with the last period of Delta,” Brown said.

“This type of busyness is what we expected, and that really drove a lot of our decisions to make sure we were able to absorb the increased demand that came through emergency and needing inpatient overnight stay.”

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The postponement of non-urgent elective surgeries that are medically necessary, in mid to late January has been the most significant shift for the hospital. Brown said they should resume sometime in the next couple of weeks.

Healthcare workers are also being hit hard by Omicron. There have been roughly 800 sick calls per day from staff members — at least a third related to COVID.

“That’s quite a significant increase even above usual influenza and cold type activity that we see at this time of year,” Brown said.

“Within Kelowna General Hospitals specifically we’ve seen calls peak actually up to almost 15 per cent of the staff that were expected in a day.”

Interior Health staff members are generally reassigned to the units that need more staff to deliver care safely.

“In some instances, people have been redeployed, maybe to a different site altogether,” Brown said. “We’ve probably had about 400 staff reassigned or redeployed across the region.”

Read more: COVID-19: B.C. reports 19 deaths, cases in hospital drop for fifth straight day

The high rates of employee illness and hospitalizations mirrors what was seen in other parts of the province last month. Brown said while Omicron cases have peaked elsewhere, the Okanagan is about a month behind.

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Between Jan. 3 and 9, in all health authorities except Island and Interior, Health Minister Adrian Dix said 14,591 health-care staff called in sick with COVID-19, similar symptoms or other illnesses. Last year, 7,573 called in sick in that same week.

British Columbia marked another 19 deaths related to COVID-19 Friday, as the number of cases in hospital dropped for the fifth straight day.

B.C. health officials reported 946 people with COVID-19 in hospital, an overnight drop of 39, including 139 cases in critical or intensive care.

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