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Health authorities experiencing staffing challenges

Fraser Health has rescheduled 128 non-urgent, elective surgeries in the last four weeks
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Fraser Health has rescheduled 128 non-urgent, elective surgeries in the last four weeks

Health care workers are not impervious to Omicron, cold and flu season, snow days or the overall exhaustion that comes with working the front lines of a pandemic and their staffing levels are now proof of that.

In a Jan. 18 news release, Fraser Health updated those in the health authority that, though they are facing “staffing challenges” at the moment, they are managing.

“Health care workers have been on the front lines of care throughout the pandemic now for two years and are experiencing exhaustion and the same illness as the rest of the population. Sustaining full staffing continues to be a challenge across the region and makes it difficult to maintain the high levels of health care services in rural communities, surgical capacity and specialized programs,” reads their release.

The province reported a record-breaking high of 854 COVID-19 hospitalizations on Tuesday (Jan. 18), with 112 of those patients in intensive care units, following the government’s decision last week to broaden the categories of COVID-19 patients that are counted.

New patient categories are those who catch COVID-19 while already in hospital, people who entered the hospital for COVID-19 illness and are no longer deemed infectious and COVID-19 patients in B.C. who usually reside outside of the province.

Though there are not any foreseeable longer-term impacts to Fraser Health’s or Vancouver Coastal Health’s service delivery at this time, they have adopted temporary measures to address immediate requirements, as needed, over the past several months.

In the past four weeks, Fraser Health has rescheduled 128 non-urgent, elective surgeries because of the decrease in staffing. They have also had to reschedule a small number of home-support visits.

“COVID-19 vaccines are our best line of defense against the virus, including the Omicron variant, offering good protection from serious illness and hospitalization. By following the provincial health guidelines and getting vaccinated, the public is supporting the healthcare system and front-line staff who remain committed to delivering safe and quality care to those who need it,” reads the release.

Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) has had to postpone 154 non-urgent, elective surgeries over the past month due to a reduction in operating rooms.

The release highlights that staffing impacts have also had a significant impact on rural and remote sites, as these facilities and programs typically run with smaller teams.

Both Fraser Health and VCH would like to remind those living within these health authorities’ regions attempt to preserve testing capacity for those at higher risk of COVID-19 and for those living or working in higher risk settings.

If you’re fully vaccinated and have mild symptoms, testing is not required, reads the release.

“If sick, stay at home and away from others until you feel well enough to return to regular activities. Those with no symptoms of COVID-19 do not need a test.”

-with files from Glacier Media