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Boundary hospital ‘ready for a surge,’ hoping it never comes

The emergency department director confirmed there were active COVID-19 cases in the Boundary
Rocks bearing encouraging messages greet Boundary Regional Hospital staff at the facility’s doors in Grand Forks. (Jensen Edwards/Grand Forks Gazette)

Emergency department staff at the Boundary Regional Hospital in Grand Forks feel ready for a surge of COVID-19 patients, though they hope it never comes.

Dr. Jesse Thompson, the COVID-19 physician lead for the Boundary and the head of the hospital’s emergency department, said that his team has “completely transformed” the way the department is structured in order to handle any COVID-19 patients.

“We feel quite ready for a surge at this point,” Thompson said on April 2, “but hopefully it doesn’t happen.”

In late March, a Facebook message posted on behalf of Thompson confirmed that several positive cases of COVID-19 had been identified in the Boundary region. Neither the post nor the doctor’s interview statements are officially endorsed by the Interior Health Authority, but Thompson said he thought it was important to let the community know that the disease was in the region.

“The risk is higher,” Thompson said when explaining why he publicly confirmed the disease’s presence in the region, “and it’s only going to keep increasing.”

Though Thompson wouldn’t specify where the cases were identified within the Boundary, “It doesn’t matter,” he said, “it’s around,” and thus people should be taking the advised precautions seriously.

As of April 2, there were 1,121 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the province, 121 of which were in the Interior Health region.

At the Grand Forks hospital, staff have created what Thompson described as a second emergency wing for respiratory patients – a COVID-19 wing. As of April 2, the doctor said that there were “a couple people under isolation” in the region, but no positive cases in the hospital.

As for staff protection within the hospital, Thompson said that the Boundary Regional Hospital has enough personal protective equipment for the moment. “If the need arises, we will send out a public notice [asking for donations],” he said.

To avoid the surge they’ve prepared for, Thompson and his team are reiterating the message emphasized daily by B.C.’s provincial health officer: stay home.

“We’ve talked and we’re really proud of the community for staying home and observing social distance,” Thompson said. “This needs to be an ongoing thing,” he added, noting that current public health orders are part of a “long-term intervention” plan to curb the spread of the disease. “We want patients to stay home so that we can go to work for you,” Thompson said.

Kootenay Boundary doctors and nurse-practioners emphasized Thursday that despite the #StayHome messaging, they are still ready to support their patients.

The organization representing Kootenay and Boundary practitioners said last week they were concerned patients are not booking appointments when they may need help, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Many clinics have seen a drop in the number of appointments and are worried that patients who have health-care concerns may be unsure if they can still see their practitioner in the midst of the COVID-19 situation,” said a news release from the medical professionals’ group.

SEE: Kootenay Boundary doctors urge everyone to #stayhome

A list of clinics in Kootenay Boundary, including walk-in clinic options for patients who don’t currently have a practitioner, can be found on the Kootenay Boundary Division of Family Practice website.

Thompson said that all of his Boundary colleagues are healthy and ready for patients. Anyone looking to consult a Boundary doctor is asked to call into their clinic to set up an appointment that could be conducted by phone or video chat. Thompson said that if in-person meetings are required, they can also be arranged.

Read more: Don’t avoid doctor’s office if you need help, say Kootenay Boundary physicians


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