Interior Health president and CEO Susan Brown. (Contributed)

Interior Health president and CEO Susan Brown. (Contributed)

COLUMN: Overcoming unimaginable odds in health care

Interior Health CEO Susan Brown reflects on 2020, expresses hope for 2021

As we look back on 2020, we might be tempted to focus on the challenges. However, I want to take a moment to reflect on the strength and resilience demonstrated by individuals and communities as we overcame unimaginable odds together.

Our health care system, supported by outstanding teams of providers, patients and families, found new and innovative ways to provide and receive care. Our capital projects continued and new services opened to ensure more patients could access the health care services they need, closer to home.

READ MORE: Another 84 COVID-19 cases, 4 more deaths in Interior Health

The COVID-19 pandemic hit us hard early in the year and as new information about this novel virus came streaming in, health-care teams throughout Interior Health stepped up to rapidly adapt new processes and procedures.

A team of health-care professionals at Royal Inland Hospital shared their experience about working and adjusting to the early days of the pandemic on our News@IH website, Facing the Unknown. It was inspirational throughout these past 10 months to see the spirit of our health-care workers and physicians across the health authority.

You may need a tissue to watch as they encouraged each other on YouTube in this video, Health Care Staff Supporting Health Care Staff.

These creative efforts to keep staff and patients feeling optimistic are just a few examples of what went on consistently in the background at health care sites throughout Interior Health.

When I consider the stresses that health-care staff and physicians have endured in this pandemic, I am deeply moved and so proud of the attitude and strength of our teams who have one shared goal – to protect you and each other and to provide the best care possible.

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The behind-the-scenes work included upgrading technology to provide care from a distance, opening a new emergency department at Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital in Trail, emergency department and pharmacy renovations at the Penticton Regional Hospital, and continued construction of the new Patient Care Tower at Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops.

Urgent primary care centres continued to open, offering access to primary care services for many patients who don’t have a primary care provider of their own and to those who needed to see a physician or nurse practitioner immediately.

Surgeries restarted in May and through the collective efforts of the entire surgical team from our physicians, to nurses, to cleaning staff and leadership staff, we have made great initial progress in catching up on the elective surgeries that were paused in March to ensure hospital beds and workers were available to handle a surge in COVID-19.

The year 2020 taught us how to work together to face challenges and you were there with us every step of the way; washing your hands like never before, staying home when you were asked, wearing masks to protect others and making huge sacrifices when you were only able to visit relatives in long-term care from a distance. We know how difficult this was for our residents and their families.

READ MORE: B.C. considers provincial COVID-19 bubble as visitors come in

READ MORE: COVID clarity: Feds say 42-day gap for 2-dose vaccines OK as provinces race to immunity

You also showed your support for our health care workers with pot banging at night, parades and beautiful hand-painted signs at our health-care facilities. We are profoundly grateful.

Now we have reached 2021 and we still have a pandemic underway, but we have renewed hope with the launch of a massive immunization program to halt the spread of the COVID-19. The fast development of a safe and effective vaccine is monumental and a credit to dedicated scientists around the world who were able to build on what is already known about vaccinations.

In Interior Health, a full-scale effort is already in progress to immunize our most vulnerable populations and the health-care workers most at risk from COVID-19. This will take place over the next three months. At the moment, COVID-19 vaccines are not available for the general public, but this will change quickly. We anticipate everyone in the B.C. Interior who wants a vaccine will have been immunized by the fall. Until then, as long as we keep each other healthy, we will soon be able to celebrate renewed connections within our homes, our communities and our health-care sites.

Thank you again for your support in 2020 and Happy New Year to you all!

CoronavirusHealthHealthcare

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