In spite of COVID-19 challenges, White Rock and South Surrey seem to be keeping pace with vaccinations, and with demands placed by the pandemic on Peace Arch Hospital.
That was the message to White Rock council from Carol Wiebe, executive director for Fraser Health’s White Rock and South Surrey and Delta Health Services, and Peace Arch and Delta hospitals.
Speaking to council’s March 29 regular meeting, Wiebe gave an update on current measures and how objectives are being met in the Peninsula area.
Wiebe paid tribute to the hard work of Peace Arch staff and the enhanced infection prevention controls they’ve had in place to counteract the spread of COVID.
“I’m knocking on wood because we are blessed that Peace Arch has not had a COVID outbreak, compared to many other sites in Fraser Health, and we want to keep it that way,” she said.
“We want to boast, at the end of this, that we were able to support COVID patients, we’ve cared for a lot of COVID-positive patients, but we have not caused an in-hospital transmission.”
But she warned that it’s crucially important for people to continue to follow public health guidelines on masking, distancing and gathering, particularly with the onset of warmer weather.
“We’re starting to see people get a little too close,” she said.
“We do have the variant strain throughout our communities and it’s very highly contagious, compared to our first and second round, the second wave of COVID.”
Noting that Fraser Health has identified the City of Surrey, generally, as a transmission “hot-spot”, Coun. David Chesney asked whether Wiebe sees the White Rock and South Surrey area as above average or below average for concern.
“The hot-spot is in the central Surrey area – it’s not impacting White Rock and South Surrey at this time,” Wiebe said.
“Our numbers are stable, and we’re not seeing the amounts (of patients) coming through our hospital, which is good news as well.”
On the vaccination front, Wiebe told council that appointments are now open in the area for seniors 73 years of age or older, Indigenous individuals 55 and older and Indigenous elders.
“We continue to accelerate, as per the province’s direction, and I encourage everyone to book as soon as they are eligible – it sure makes life easier for us,” she said.
The next eligible group, Wiebe said, are clinically extremely vulnerable (or CEV) patients – already identified through the health system and primary healthcare providers – who are being contacted directly by letter for their appointments, outside the age-based roll-out.
“We continue to follow the provincial direction around the front-line workers,” she said. “These priority groups continue to receive their first vaccines as well.”
Wiebe said although many businesses are not on that initial priority list, those that received priority to this point were manufacturers and businesses “struggling with COVID outbreaks.”
Community Home Health and help support programs have immunized most of their home-bound clients, Wiebe reported – representing over 8,600 people throughout Fraser Health – and all long term-care and assisted-living patients and staff have received their first and second vaccines (although new arrivals in the system are still in the process of being vaccinated).
The online booking tool is now working well, Wiebe said, and functioning 24/7, and there are still ample appointments available, “so were not having issues with that at this time.”
Wiebe acknowledged that Peace Arch Hospital has been “playing catch-up” – ensuring that scheduled surgeries get back on track through the Surgical Renewal Program. “We’ll be opening up further ORs in the very near future, but we are going to start with extensions on Saturdays, so we are going to be performing some surgeries on Saturday at Peace Arch as well.”
With increased demand, there have been issues around increased wait lists for CT scans, Wiebe said, but hours have been expanded at Peace Arch Hospital and other local Fraser Health sites and that medical imaging staff are “doing a great job catching up with some of the wait lists they’ve had due to COVID.”