|Wednesday night was the turn for Northern Health officials to share info|
as part of the ongoing Provincial Virtual Town Halls on COVID-19
Residents of Northern British Columbia took advantage of their opportunity to ask questions of Northern Health officials on Wednesday night, with the latest of the COVID-19 virtual town halls taking place, hosted by MLA's Doug Donaldson and Mike Bernier.
The streamcast which at times suffered some technical challenges offered up a hour look at how the COVID response has been handled thus far in Northern British Columbia.
Both MLA's served as quizmasters for the most part, delivering the previously submitted quesitons and those relayed live during the Facebook streamcast to Cathy Ulrich the CEO for Northern Health and Dr. Raina Fumerton the Acting Chief Medical Officer for Northern Health.
To the key themes for the night, British Columbia COVID testing strategies led off the discussion, with Dr. Fumerton explaining how the strategy in the North has evolved as it has in the province as the COVID response has moved forward, with the ability now in place to test more broadly from the earlier period.
"Health care providers can order a COVID test for any patient based on their clinical judgement at this point in time. So we have COVID-19 testing locations in communities across the North ... in some cases a physician or nurse practitioner may decide that a person with symptoms can be managed at home and does not need to be tested, so again there is some clinical judgement in all of this. But certainly testing is available for those who need it, of course not everyone requires a test"
Ms. Ulrich observed as to how the turn around time for testing has been shortened significantly since the testing program first began, owing to increased capacity and the work down in the North to decrease the transportation time, with three centres Terrace, Prince George and Fort St. John making use of air transport to transit the tests, as well the CEO noted that capacity was being increased to test locally in the region.
A question related to the sharing of details on presumptive cases in Northern Health and how the Health Agency deals with the issue was addressed by Dr. Fumerton, who highlighted how the process currently works in the Northern region with tests sent to the south for confirmation and how new equipment has arrived in the North to streamline the process further.
"When those results come back they are initially resulted as a presumptive positive and then they are sent to the provincial laboratory of BC CDC to be ultimately confirmed and then we can report it as a confirmed positive"
With lower results of confirmed cases currently being realized in the North, the question of how that may affect the transition back to normal life was posed to the health officials.
In reply Dr. Fumerton noted that so far there have been 2,687 tests done in the North, with 40 positive cases reported to date, which is proportional to the provincial numbers in other health authorities.
Later in the event, Dr. Fumerton noted that of that 40, 32 Northerners were now considered as having recovered, with eight cases considered to be active.
How Health Clinics are conducting their business was another area explored, with Ms. Ulrich outlining how the process works at this time.
"If people need to see their family physician, or a nurse practitioner, or a specialist they should make sure that they do that. Many of the nurse practitioners and primary care and specialist offices are providing virtual options, either telephone or video kinds of connectivity for their patients, and it is important that people continue to access the health care that they need.
She also observed the same rules for physical distancing found in the community are also in place at local medical facilities across the region.
The question of how much equipment Northern Health has on hand provided for some positive results, with Ms. Ulrich noting that at this time the region has the supply of Personal Protective Equipment that is appropriate for the health care needs in the region.
One frequent question heard across the North was why Northern Health does release more information and why they do not list the specific locations of reports of positive cases of COVID, which Doctor Fumerton addressed as follows.
"In BC we've made the decision that we will be reporting, at least at this point in time where numbers are so relatively low ... that we will be reporting the total number of lab confirmed cases at the Health Authority level only. With the exception of when we need to declare an outbreak, at which point in time we can ascertain what community that is in, because that would be identifiable as a long term care facility, etcetera. At this point in time I'm happy to say that we have no outbreaks in any of our long term facilities and the other reason we would provide information at a community level is if there was an event where our public health case and contact follow up team wasn't able to identify all of the people in order to ensure that they are taking the appropriate precautions ... "
As for the level of cases across the region, Dr. Fumerton observed how there are cases in large and small communities across the health service delivery area, noting as to how they agree with the provincial decision that they don't identify those communities.
"One of the unintended consequences of providing community level data, particularly in small communities of which we have many in the north, is that we've see stigma become an issue in communities where cases have been identified, whether by individuals or third parties"
Some of the other topics explored included how Northern Health was approaching access to long term care facilities, as well as what measures are in place at large scale work camps across the region.
You can review the full hour below:
More information on Northern Health's work on COVID and the assistance available in the region can be explored here.
For more notes related to the BC COVID-19 response see our archive page here.
Further items of interest on Northern Health can be reviewed here.