East Kootenay Regional Hospital in Cranbrook. Google maps photo

East Kootenay Regional Hospital in Cranbrook. Google maps photo

Interior Health officials update RDEK board on regional operations, pandemic response

As COVID-19 cases surge in the Cranbrook area, Interior Health officials provided an update on pandemic response and a general overview of operations in the East Kootenay region during a regional district board meeting on Friday.

In the latest reporting period between Sept. 26-Oct. 2, the Cranbrook Local Health Area reported 90 cases, leading the entire Kootenay region.

Karen Bloemink, Vice President, Pandemic Response for Interior Health, along with Terri Domin, Executive Director, Clinical Operations, Acute & Community, addressed the COVID-19 situation, while also providing an update on operations within the East Kootenay region.

READ: Cranbrook hit’s pandemic high of 90 cases in one reporting week: BC CDC

In a Q&A session with RDEK board directors, Domin told the board that the East Kootenay Regional Hospital had been facing some short-term occupancy pressures in the current wave, but noted that there is a pool of community-based staffing resources to borrow from if needed.

“We did have some occupancy pressure, but certainly down and we were fortunate to not have seen any surgical slowdown in our area during this fourth wave,” Domin said.

Bloemink also told the board that Interior Health’s network of 22 hospitals work together to meet patient care needs.

“There is, and there has been times where we have had to, based on clinical assessments, move patients between our facilities based on their clinical needs,” Bloemink said.

She added that the five COVID-19 testing centres in the East Kootenay have been “quite busy.”

“With our back to school, we have seen cases within our schools as well as at the community level,” Bloemink said. “We know these sites are busy but we’re continuing to meet the demand of getting access to a specimen collection for a test within 24 hours and then having the result within 24 hours.”

During Sept. 28-Oct. 4, the BC CDC reported a 15 per cent positivity testing rate in the Cranbrook LHA.

In the context of increases in cases listed on the school exposures webpage, Bloemink also told the board that communities with higher vaccination rates show less infection rates in the under-12 year old population.

Right now, Cranbrook’s vaccination rate can be interpreted a few different ways.

In the 12-plus range, first doses are at 82 per cent and second doses are at 74 per cent.

However, break that down into specific age groups, and the rates get lower.

For example, in the 12-17 age range, first and second dose rates are 71 per cent and 59 per cent, respectively. The 18-49 age range first and second dose rates are at 76 per cent and 64 per cent, respectively.

During the presentation to the board Bloemink noted that Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s Public Health Officer, has indicated that vaccine rates need get above 90 per cent in order to move past the pandemic.

In the context of Interior Health, ages 60 and up are close to the 90 percentile, however, there are staggered declines in lower age brackets.

While the pandemic was the topic du jour, the Bloemink also included an overview of IH operations in the East Kootenay.

In Cranbrook, 1,225 individuals are employed by Interior Health, as part of a complement of 2,458 across the East Kootenay.

Bloemink also touted the recent announcement of the Urgent Primary Care Centre (UPCC) in Cranbrook, which should relieve pressure on acute care services and noted that Interior Health is working with partners to recruit medical staff to operate the facility, which will be located at the old Baker St. mall in Cranbrook.