Few details from Interior Health on Revelstoke COVID-19 preparations

Interior Health refers questions about local preparedness to provincial authorities.

Queen Victoria Hospital in Revelstoke.

Starting in late January, Revelstoke Mountaineer has attempted to find out more about Interior Health coronavirus/COVID-19 preparations in Revelstoke, but there remain few details available from the health authority.

Our request has been to speak with a Revelstoke-based health professional about the health authority’s preparations in order to better inform community members about the situation and what they can do to prepare.

What will happen to someone requiring hospitalization? What can Revelstokians do to help? What is our current capacity? — those kind of questions.

However, Interior Health says the health authority is under orders not to talk to local media.

Susan Duncan, an Interior Health spokesperson, said the health authority is under orders from the provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, to refer all questions to provincial authorities, and that Interior Health is simply complying with that order.

“No one in Interior Health can defy her and talk to a local reporter,” Duncan told the Mountaineer on Mar. 12 during a follow-up interview. “We have to follow the instructions we get from the provincial health officer. I am not making this up.”

The B.C. government, along with Dr. Allen, have been conducting daily press briefings on the coronavirus/COVID-19 situation in B.C.

In lieu of information about the government health system’s preparedness to deal with potential COVID-19 cases in Revelstoke, Duncan referred us to general information websites, such as for the BC Centre for Disease Control.

We were also referred to a BC Centre for Disease Control spokesperson in February, before the COVID-19 outbreak was declared a pandemic, but that spokesperson responded to our questions with an email referring to provincial websites and did not return follow-up calls.

Complaints of lack of local information are not isolated to Revelstoke:

We will continue in our efforts to speak to local contacts about preparations for COVID-19.

‘Flattening the curve’ emerges as key message internationally

One of the key messages to emerge in the past week is the need to “flatten the curve” on the COVID-19 outbreak.

The concern is that a sudden escalation in the number of severe cases that require hospitalization, intensive staff resources, and specialized equipment, such as ICU beds and ventilators, could overwhelm the critical health-care system.

The idea is that slowing down the number of total infections will also reduce the number of critical cases requiring intensive medical intervention.

There is no intensive care unit in Revelstoke. There are a total of 70 ICU beds in Interior Health. The authority has 77 adult ICU ventilators, 35 transport ventilators, and 20 transport ventilators at rural sites.

To counter COVID-19, authorities are asking residents to take personal precautions, such as frequent hand washing, social distancing, and not going to work when sick. Find out more about Interior Health’s general information on COVID-19 and preventative steps here.

On Mar. 12, the provincial government announced seven new cases in B.C., bringing the total to 53. The province announced other steps, including directing organizers to cancel gatherings with more than 250 people, and asking those returning from travel outside of Canada to voluntarily self-isolate for 14 days.